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West Coast Wild Fisheries – Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project (MIAP)

The sometimes adversarial relationship between wild fisheries and the aquaculture industry has been on-going for many years. Most recently, the negative impact of this ‘tit-for-tat’ relationship was highlighted by the RACCE Committee in their Stage 1 report on the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill.  In an attempt to move the issue forward in a positive way, RAFTS, in partnership with its member Fishery Trusts and partner District Salmon Fishery Boards on the West Coast of Scotland developed the Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project (MIAP).

The programme’s overall aims are to:

  • Help  identify optimal and sub-optimal locations of aquaculture operations where these activities can best proceed with reduced or acceptable risks to wild fish populations and fisheries; Highlight areas of the West Coast of particular sensitivity to wild fish populations and fisheries, thereby
  • directing growth to appropriate locations via the provision of locational guidance in terms of wild fish and fisheries;
  • Supporting the reduction of risk to the environment via monitoring  of sea lice levels on wild sea trout populations;
  • By the use of applied genetics tools and a strategic sampling programme identify when or if genetic material of aquaculture origin is present in sampled wild fish populations to inform the need for further improved stock retention measures and demonstrate conclusively when such genetic ingress takes place.

MIAP consists of three constituent parts:-

  1. An annual programme of sea-trout post smolt sweep netting and reporting of this.  Read the  annual sweep netting reports further down this page;
  2. A programme of wild fish sampling and subsequent genetic analysis to assess levels of introgression of aquaculture / Norwegian strain genetic materials in wild fish. sampling for this project took place in 2011.  Read the report further down this page;
  3. Development of a locational guidance model to support fishery trust and district salmon fishery board representations to aquaculture development planning consultations to seek to better protect wild fish populations from inappropriate development.

Version 1 of the Locational Guidance model was completed in November 2013.  The models are in the form of Geographical Information System (GIS) map layers, and these have been sent to all partner fisheries trusts and DSFBs to assist with aquaculture issues in their area. A Briefing Paper which summarises the work on the Locational Guidance model and provides advice on using the model is available HERE. A Technical Report which details the development of the model as well as practical guidance on using the model is available HERE. MAP 1 is a representation of the Rivers and Fisheries map layer from the Locational Guidance model.  The blue areas represent the areas with the greatest sensitivity to aquaculture developments, purple areas high sensitivity, pink areas medium sensitivity, orange areas medium-low and  yellow areas showing the areas with the least sensitivity to aquaculture. We intend to place a version of the map which will allow users to zoom in on particular areas on the website in the near future. In the meantime, an image of the map can be viewed below. Capture2














Project outcomes


Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project 2014/15

In 2014, the fisheries trusts of the West Coast gathered data from 21 monitoring sites. This involved collecting individual data from almost 1000 captured sea trout. Analysis of sea lice was only conducted at monitoring sites where more than 30 post-smolt sea trout were caught; of the 21 sites sampled, 14 sites caught the required number of sea trout. The variation in sea lice numbers between sites, and from year to year at the same site, demonstrate that there are many variables that can influence sea lice infestations on wild sea trout. These could include the timing when post smolt sea trout leave their rivers, sea temperatures and coastal salinities, wind directions and strength in the period prior to sampling, as well as the sea lice burdens on nearby aquaculture sites that can augment natural sea lice populations. To enable effective management of wild fish and farmed salmon, it is imperative that these variables are better understood.  Please see Sweep Netting Programme Final Report for more details. 

 Data gathered by the fisheries trusts during 2014 were used to update the information for catchment accessibility, habitat quality and status of juvenile populations.  Public data were collected from Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.  The extent of catchments included in the model remained at 93% for 2015.  More details are provided in the RAFTS Locational Guidance report. 



Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project 2013/14 Regional Report: 2013 Sea Trout Post Smolt Monitoring 

In 2013, twenty two monitoring sites were surveyed and data from over 1000 sea trout recorded. The report contains data on the levels of sea lice found on post-smolt sea trout across all of the sampling sites.  The West Coast Fisheries Trusts’ sweep netting programme is the only programme monitoring the impacts of aquaculture on wild salmonid populations.   This is the third such report published by RAFTS as part of the MIAP and can be downloaded HERE.


Report on Genetic Tool Development for Distinguishing Farmed vs Wild Fish in Scotland

The results reported in the MIAP Genetics report demonstrate the ability to distinguish between Norwegian and Scottish fish as well as identify individuals of mixed ancestry with high accuracy.  While this offers a promising tool for the identification of wild vs. farmed or intermediate individuals in Scotland, the current analysis is limited in its ability to distinguish Scottish strains in aquaculture from wild Scottish fish.  The presence of Norwegian genetic signatures from most west coast sites was identified and several cases of putative direct aquaculture escapees were genetically consistent with field-based identification.  It was also possibly to distinguish individuals of mixed ancestry versus those of either pure Scottish or Norwegian origin. A comprehensive baseline of aquaculture strains and possible addition and/or refinement of the make-up of genetic markers used in this panel will allow for the tool to be developed further. The report may be viewed HERE


Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project 2012/13 Regional Report: 2012 Sea Trout Post Smolt Monitoring

In 2012, twenty two monitoring sites were surveyed and data from over 1000 sea trout recorded and RAFTS is now able to release the annual report of this work1.  This is the second such report published by RAFTS as part of the MIAP.  The report shows variable lice loads on wild sea trout across the west coast and confirms that at some sites the sampled fish carried detrimental lice loads above critical thresholds. This project, and predecessor work carried out as part of the Tripartite Working Group, is critical for developing a better understanding of the interactions between wild fish, sea lice and fish farms on the West Coast.  Previous collected data, collected from 2003 – 2009 has recently been published by Marine Scotland Science (Middlemas et al, 2012) in an examination of the evidence of the relationship between sea lice levels on sea trout and fish farm activity in western Scotland2.  It suggests that the distance between fish farms is related to sea lice loadings recorded on wild sea trout post smolts.  The MIAP surveys are progressively improving the sampling efforts made to collect data by refining the sampling network, reporting and considering the work regionally and standardising some areas of methodology.  All MIAP data will be available to further refine our understanding of the relationship between fish farm locations and sea lice loads in wild fish. 1. Full details on the MIAPs annual regional monitoring work, analysis and findings for 2012 can be found in the downloadable report HERE. 2. Full details of the Middlemas et al (2012) can be found here:


Managing Interactions Aquaculture Project: Sea Trout Post Smolt Monitoring Project – Regional Report 2011

RAFTS with west coast fisheries trusts in Argyll, Lochaber, Outer Hebrides, Skye, West Sutherland and Wester Ross began a project of Sweep Netting Monitoring in 2011. This project forms part of the wider Managing Interactions Aquaculture project funded by Marine Scotland and coordinated and delivered by RAFTS and partner fishery trusts and district salmon fishery boards. All monitoring data collected in this  first challenging year has now been collated, analysed and complied in a full  regional report for the West Coast of Scotland. The  report has analysed the status of the post smolt sea trout populations and the presence levels of two species of sea lice L. salmonis and C. elongates on the west coast of Scotland at twenty eight monitoring sites. The report also reflects on this first year of work and discusses the implications for the development and future direction of this project in 2012. Full details on the work, analysis and findings can be found in the downloadable report HERE If you would like any further details or information on this project or any of the other work currently being undertaken by the Aquaculture team please get in touch.

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