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Phased introduction of SEPA’s Sea Lice Framework begins

Date published: 09 February 2024

Aquaculture

The first phase of a new regulatory system, offering greater protection for wild salmon in Scotland, begins this month.

The Sea Lice Framework, developed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), outlines a proportionate, evidence-based approach to protect young salmon from sea lice.  

Built on international best practice and using cutting edge science to triage risk, it will help to support the sustainable development of fish farming in Scotland by introducing wild salmon protection zones. These will help to guide development to the least sensitive locations, while introducing tighter levels of sea lice control for finfish farm operators in these areas. 

From 1st February 2024, the Framework will be applied when determining applications for proposed new farms and for increases in the number of fish at existing farms on the west coast and Western Isles.  

“Scotland is renowned for its salmon, with a leading aquaculture sector delivering high-quality produce across the world and contributing significantly to our economy. However, we know a range of pressures, including commercial aquaculture, habitat barriers, and invasive species, mean populations of wild salmon are dwindling here and across the North Atlantic. SEPA is part of an international community working to address this shared challenge, with Scotland one of the first countries to take action to manage the risk posed by sea lice from fish farms. Reaching the first phase of the Sea Lice Framework’s implementation is an important milestone and achievement for all those who we have engaged with.   We’re confident the industry will be successful in adapting to this new regulatory landscape and look forward to continuing to work with producers, and all other interests, on future phases.” 

The introduction of the Framework followed a decision by Scottish Ministers in October 2021 to establish SEPA as the new lead body responsible for managing the risk posed by sea lice to wild salmon and sea trout.   

SEPA led more than two years of extensive engagement prior to finalising its regulatory approach in December 2023, consulting leading scientists in Scotland and Norway, other regulators, finfish producers, environmental NGOs, coastal community groups and wild fishery interests. 

Monitoring programmes are being developed within the wild salmon protection zones to better understand the direct impacts from sea lice and to inform the next phases of the Framework, with opportunities for more engagement and adaption if required 

An approach to the protection of sea trout populations from sea lice will be implemented from March 2025 covering the West Coast, Western Isles and Northern Isles. 

Notes to editor:

  • View FAQs on the Sea Lice Regulatory Framework Implementation¬†
  • Read the full details of the Sea Lice Framework in our consultation response published online on 7th December 2023.