Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:47 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 4:47 pm, 1st March 2007

No one who has been a member of the Parliament over the past eight years can be other than convinced that, in relation to aquaculture, two key issues will be raised repeatedly: there are doubts about its environmental soundness and its presence in certain areas of Scotland; and it is essential to the economic development of some of the most fragile areas in Scotland. It has always been a difficult balancing act for us. I am glad that the process that we have gone through with the bill has allowed us to continue that balancing act. The Scottish Conservatives remain very supportive of the aquaculture industry and willing to participate in any measure that will allow it to become more secure in the environmental sense as well as in the economic sense.

The parasite Gyrodactylus salaris—I pronounce its name publicly for the first time—is one of the biggest threats that could conceivably enter our rivers. I was especially impressed with the way in which Richard Lochhead made that point. Not only would GS be a great threat to our wild salmon populations and the economic development associated with them, the process of flushing out some of our rivers with dangerous chemicals could be a massive threat to our whisky industry. Considering the exports that our whisky industry achieves, we cannot afford to take risks.

I wonder whether, when we discuss biosecurity and GS—and, perhaps, bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease, which we have often discussed in the same context—it is sometimes difficult to assess how dangerous the situation would be and what reaction would be appropriate. I worry that we may be observing complacency, to some extent, in relation to GS. Time will tell. If GS does appear, perhaps complacency is what we will have seen.

The use of live bait was passed over quickly in the debate, but I am glad that we had the opportunity to debate it. I am not convinced that we have made the right decision, but I have been given cause to reflect on how the Executive used the same biosecurity arguments against the use of live bait.

We must concern ourselves with how new people—especially those who can least afford to become involved in the sport of angling—can be given access to fishing. Various organisations in Scotland are working hard, in conjunction with our angling clubs, to achieve that. I am glad that we will preserve our angling clubs and not undermine their authority through decisions that we have made today.

It was interesting that a Conservative amendment provided the opportunity to test the concept of compulsory compensation when fish are compulsorily destroyed by the Executive. The fact that the Executive has taken a discretionary power to compensate for destroyed fish is a major step forward. I am glad that we have tested the water on compulsory compensation, but I am disappointed that we did not take that opportunity.