Under the Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019, Crown Estate Scotland has a duty to:
- Maintain and enhance value of the marine estate; and to
- Manage it in a way that will contribute to improvement in economic development, regeneration, social and environmental wellbeing for Scotland.
To do this effectively, we must take measures to ensure that developers and businesses recognise Scotland’s seabed as a shared public space that supports many diverse interests.
Sustainable use of the seabed therefore extends beyond compliance with regulations which are specific to certain developments and sectors: it also includes broader obligations for responsible care and treatment of a shared public asset.
We believe this is best achieved through practices that:
- Include co-operation with other marine users to minimise risk of impacts both on respective interests as well as cumulative impacts, and
- Recognise the duty of care incumbent on all who use and are supported by the resources of Scotland’s marine environment, irrespective of the scope of regulatory controls.
These are best summarised as measures that promote and enable co-existence and stewardship.
Demonstrating co-existence and stewardship
We have introduced contractual terms which encourage and allow our tenants, through reporting, to demonstrate co-existence and stewardship of the marine environment. These are additional to measures and regulations enforced by other public bodies such as SEPA.
Reporting topics may either be:
- Sector-specific; or
- Applicable to all aquaculture tenants
These topics will be reviewed periodically to ensure they remain relevant.
We will require annual reports ‘per tenant’ which may reference individual leased subjects, where necessary. They will be published on our website, so that our tenants’ performance in these matters is completely transparent.
The initial topics for reporting are:
- For all aquaculture tenants, management of plastic used on the leased seabed area.
- For Finfish farming tenants, participation in (collaborative) management agreements to mitigate cumulative impacts.
These topics align with Industry Charters, Code of Good Practices, and stakeholder ambitions for the sectors.
Further guidance and reporting tools are given below.
The problems caused by marine plastics are well documented & understood. They include:
- Shredding, leading to microplastic release;
- Entanglement; and
- Navigational risk.
The European Commission estimates that:
- 27% of beach litter (by count) is from fishing and aquaculture gear; and
- There is approximately 44,000 tonnes of aquaculture gear in use in Scotland, of which approximately 5000 tonnes of waste gear arises annually, and 4000 tonnes of that being plastics in various forms.
Reporting allows for greater transparency on the aquaculture industry’s stewardship and responsible tenancy of the shared marine resource, required by seabed lease agreements, and on measures included in their own codes of practice and policies. It also aligns with the Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland ‘measurable steps are taken to prevent marine litter’.
The primary purpose of this reporting requirement is to provide assurance that the use of plastic on leased sites is monitored and managed in order to prevent release to the marine environment. This is something not comprehensively covered by other regulatory authorities or accreditation schemes at present.
These resources can be used to help meet the reporting requirements of your business:
Our seabed leases for salmon and trout farming include a reporting requirement on the tenant’s engagement and participation in local area-based agreements to collaboratively manage risk of cumulative impacts, chiefly those on wild salmon and sea trout.
The management of potential interactions between farmed stocks held on leased seabed areas and wild fish, particularly in relation to the possible transfer of parasites and pathogens, is a recognised requirement in minimising risk in locations where such transfers are possible.
Potential risks of infestation may increase with the number of fish farmed within an area, more so where multiple farming sites are present but operated by different businesses.
Measures available through collaborative area-based management to address such risks include synchronous production and/or fallowing of farm sites and co-ordinated strategic disease and parasite treatments of farmed stocks within management areas.
Feedback from monitoring lice levels on farmed and wild fish in these areas can inform an overarching adaptive management framework to identify measures appropriate to local pressures and priorities (see reference to Area-Based Management in the Aquaculture Stewardship Council for Farmed Salmon).
Area-based management measures are not confined to sea-lice management and offer similar beneficial management opportunities both for other pathogens of farmed fish as well as environmental interactions more generally.
It is also arguably the case that that increasing and/or unmanaged risk diminishes potential productive capacity and the ability to accommodate further development.
Crown Estate Scotland lease agreements have an established historical obligation on tenants “to operate in accordance with the principles and procedures set out in any Management Agreement”.
This reporting obligation is in place to support the monitoring of participation in such collaborative agreements and demonstrate responsible stewardship of the shared marine environment by tenants.
It also aligns with the recommendations of the Salmon Interactions Working Group report of 2020 for licensing and enforcement of necessary measures to include a “requirement for the farm to be party to a farm management agreement for the farm management area”.
A signed declaration of the equipment deployed (rather than simply consented) on each leased site and attestation that it remains properly installed and maintained (‘the Declaration’) will be required to be submitted annually as a requirement of all aquaculture leases. The declaration must be signed by a director/owner of the tenant company or the tenant themselves if a private individual.
Failure to submit a Declaration will result in a restoration bond being required to cover potential costs for recovering the leased site should it become derelict or abandoned.
We will issue a Declaration form to each tenant annually for completion. This is to be returned to our Edinburgh Head Office, for the attention of the Aquaculture Team on the timetable set out in the lease.