Environmental & fishery management policies

RAFTS inputs to, and leads on the development of a number of important environmental policies. Below are the key areas within which we operate, working closely, in many cases, with our partner organisation, ASFB.


Aquaculture units

Farmed salmon production has increased rapidly in the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland. There are a number of significant concerns with regard to the sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry in Scotland, including the release of harmful chemicals, benthic impacts due to organic enrichment from waste food and faeces and the sustainability of food sources. However, the most significant concerns for wild fish interests are the potential negative effects of sea lice and escapes.

  • Sea lice: A number of reviews have considered the effects of interactions between salmon farms and wild salmonids (e.g. Revie et al. 2009). There is now compelling scientific evidence that sea lice emanating from salmon farms have the potential to pose a very serious risk to wild migratory salmonid populations
  • Escapes: Farm escapees (from both cages in freshwater and marine cages) have the potential to interbreed with wild fish. Scottish salmon have unique genetic lineage specific to each river system (and sometimes unique to individual tributaries). Cross-bred offspring are less fit for survival at sea thereby putting the wild population at risk. In addition, escaped juvenile fish in freshwater may out-compete wild fish prior to migration and can develop to sexual maturity as parr, interbreeding with adult returning fish

RAFTS works with ASFB in providing guidance to Boards/Trusts with regard to the aquaculture planning process, including the current Audit and Review Process set up to transfer aquaculture operations from Crown Estate development consents to planning consent under the Town and Country Planning Act. In addition, RAFTS plays a central role in working with Government, Parliament, Local Authority Planners, Marine Scotland Science, SEPA and SNH in an attempt to ensure that the industry operates in a manner compatible with the needs of wild salmonids.

RAFTS are playing a lead role in the Scottish Government’s ‘Managing Interactions’ programme and we manage the Aquaculture Mitigation, Management and Liaison Programme .

RAFTS continues to work with the other key organisations in the wild fisheries and environmental sector with the shared aim of protecting wild populations of salmon and sea trout from the environmental consequences of aquaculture.

Further reading on aquaculture policy:

Fish Movements & Restocking

DSFBs are statutory regulators and written consent must be obtained from the relevant Board prior to the artificial stocking of salmon and sea trout in the Board’s district. ASFB and RAFTS, have produced guidelines to assist Boards in this regulatory function; hatcheries and restocking projects can be effective management actions if carried out in the appropriate circumstances. Inappropriate stocking practice can be ineffective and costly at best, and at worst positively damaging to native stocks and sub-stocks of salmon. This is becoming more evident as our understanding deepens in relation to the genetic structures of salmon. The guidelines are designed to assist Boards in the decision making process.

Further reading on fish movements and restocking:

Diffuse Pollution

Diffuse pollution is the release of potential pollutants from a range of activities that individually may have no effect on the water environment, but at the scale of a catchment can have a significant impact (i.e. reduction in water quality, decrease in wildlife, etc.). Diffuse sources of pollution include run-off from roads, houses and commercial areas, run-off from farmland, and seepage into groundwater from developed landscapes of all kinds.

Diffuse pollution from land use activities has a significant impact on water quality. To achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), the quality of Scotland’s water environment must be maintained and, where necessary, improved.

Rural diffuse pollution arises from land use activities such as livestock grazing, cultivation of land to grow crops and from forestry operations. Such activities can give rise to a release of potential pollutants the pressures and impacts of which include: eutrophication; loss of biodiversity; silting of fish spawning grounds; and impacts on human health through drinking water or bathing water pollution. The pollutants of concern include the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, sediment, pesticides, biodegradable substances, ammonia and micro-organisms.

RAFTS is represented on the Diffuse Pollution Management Advisory Group (DPMAG), a partnership that focuses on improving Scotland’s water environment by reducing rural diffuse pollution. The main purpose of this advisory group is to: help create a robust governance, decision-making and coordination framework for the effective delivery of rural diffuse pollution RBMP actions in Scotland; and ensure input from a cross section of rural, environmental and biodiversity interests.

DPMAG have developed a two tiered strategy approach to reduce diffuse pollution in Scotland:

  • a national campaign to prevent water bodies from deterioration in status and make improvement where they are not far from a status boundary. DPMAG has developed a national awareness campaign to support the national campaign;
  • a targeted approach in catchments where the extent of diffuse pollution problem on the water environment requires a more focused approach. Fourteen priority catchments have been selected for the first RBMP cycle.

A major output from DPMAG is the rural diffuse pollution plan for Scotland which is designed to ensure that the key stakeholders in Scotland work in a coordinated way to reduce diffuse pollution from rural sources.

Further reading on diffuse pollution:

Marine Planning

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced, for the first time, a marine planning system in Scotland. The planning system will be based on three tiers:

  • A UK-wide Marine policy statement
  • A national marine plan
  • Regional marine plans

The marine planning system will set out the Scottish Ministers policies for the sustainable development of the Scottish Marine Area. The planning system will also contribute to marine conservation via the Scottish Government’s 3-pillar approach to marine nature conservation. It is therefore important to ensure that the plans take appropriate account of the protection of wild salmonids, especially with regard to aquaculture, marine renewables and mixed stock fisheries.

RAFTS & ASFB have responded to the National Marine Plan pre-consultation, and continues to work with officials across Marine Scotland to ensure that the final National Marine Plan is compatible with the needs of wild salmonids.

Further reading on Marine Planning:

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