Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:40 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 4:40 pm, 1st March 2007

I add my thanks to everybody who was involved in producing the bill, to people who gave evidence to the committee and to people who lobbied us—even those with whom I did not end up agreeing.

The bill was not generally controversial and it attracted an awful lot of agreement. Much of the bill was welcome and most of the haggling concerned fairly detailed and small parts. The provisions that relate to the aquaculture industry were very much welcomed, as was the code of good practice on sea lice and escapes.

Some of us felt slightly disappointed that strict liability for escapes from fish farms was not pursued. I know that strict liability has a clear meaning in law and that it was felt that that would go too far and would be unreasonable and unenforceable. Escapes could occur because severe weather events damaged fish cages, for example, which would not be the aquaculture enterprise's fault. I want the Executive to keep an eye on that, because the number of severe weather events will undoubtedly increase with climate change and I do not want them to be used as an excuse for repeated large-scale escapes.

If large-scale escapes happen repeatedly after severe weather events, the industry will have the responsibility to examine the design of fish farm cages, which must be fit for the purpose of containing fish in the waters around the west coast. I was a bit disappointed that the bill was not slightly stronger on that but, apart from that, I am happy with the aquaculture provisions.

As for freshwater fisheries, I will not revisit the debates about live bait, other than to say that I was slightly startled to read in a tabloid newspaper even before stage 2 that I was the author of a possible amendment to ban live vertebrate bait. I hope that everybody now realises that I was not the author; I support the measure, but I did not think of it. As a Green, I support angling and I value local relationships with anglers, who often alert environmentalists to problems in the ecosystem of their local body of water. I put on record again my support for angling and the fact that there was no nasty Green plot to stop angling. The amendment had nothing to do with the Greens and was not nasty or a plot. In any case, Greens are not nasty and never plot.

We always learn something new in scrutinising a bill; in this case, the committee learned about Gyrodactylus salaris. I might have the honour of being the first person to write about it. Having learned to spell the term, as Maureen Macmillan said, I put it in a column in the Ross-shire Journal, which some people must have read with slight astonishment if, like me previously, they had never heard of the parasite. It was surprising to be made aware of a parasite of which one had never heard but which could have a devastating effect on our salmon rivers.

Many unanswered questions about the parasite remain. Could we treat an infestation, should it come to Scotland? Are our river systems comparable to those in other places where treatment attempts have been made? Would the chemicals that would have to be used to treat the parasite be so devastating that we could not even attempt treatment? We know that the risk of recreational water users transmitting the parasite from countries where it is endemic is very small, but I am glad that awareness has been raised. During the bill process, awareness among interest groups has been raised, and I hope that the publicity campaign will raise awareness further.

I have quite enjoyed the bill. We enjoy most pieces of legislation, but the bill has been interesting. It was not hugely controversial or headline grabbing, but scrutinising it has been worth while and I am glad to have been part of that.