The regulation of aquaculture in other jurisdictions
A number of countries, including Norway, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand
and some states of the United States of America (US), have established
legislative frameworks governing the planning and regulation of the aquaculture
industry. Like Australia, aquaculture regulations differ between states and
provinces in both Canada and the US.
Finfish farming in Norway is regulated by the Aquaculture Act 2005
(Norway). The purpose of the Act is to:
...promote the profitability and competitiveness of the
aquaculture industry within the framework of a sustainable development and
contribute to the creation of value on the coast.
The Aquaculture Act 2005 (Norway) focuses on the growth and innovation
of the aquaculture industry, simplification of the approval process, protection
of the environment and consideration of other users of the coastal zone.
It establishes a licensing system, and broadly applies to issues such as
environmental standards, land utilisation, registration, transfer and
mortgaging of licences, as well as control and enforcement.
New aquaculture applications are made to the Directorate of the Regional
Fisheries Office. Upon approval, the applications are sent to regional
authorities such as the County Governor, the Norwegian National Coastal
Administration, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, Municipality, and the
Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate.
The Directorate of Fisheries decides when licences for marine
aquaculture are to be allocated, and the geographical distribution of
aquaculture projects. When licences are to be made available, the Directorate
makes a public announcement seeking applications.
The Directorate can limit the number of licences that are allocated in a
watercourse, or allocate licences within a particular total breeding biomass
that is set for a watercourse. The Directorate of Fisheries can also limit the
number of allocated licences at the national, regional or local level, in order
to ensure that the industry develops in a controlled manner, taking into
consideration environmental consequences, the public right of access to and
right to passage through the countryside (public right of access), as well as
the interests of other industries. Sea ranching licences are also allocated in
a coordinated manner and the Directorate determines the time for the allocation
of the licences.
An Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) is required prior to the
approval of new large farms
and compliance with best practice management is achieved through regulatory
measures with environmental monitoring requirements set at the local and
regional scale. Local environmental requirements are based on the level of
impact and exploitation of the site, whereas regional environmental monitoring
requirements are set at the discretion of the local authority.
Governance of the aquaculture industry in Scotland is complex, with over
60 pieces of relevant legislation and 10 different statutory authorities.
The two primary pieces of legislation are the Marine Act 2010 (Scotland) and
the Aquaculture and Fisheries Act 2007 (Scotland).
The key points of the Marine Act 2010 (Scotland) relevant to the
regulation of the aquaculture industry are:
a statutory requirement to develop regional marine plans that will
facilitate the sustainable management of the marine area; and
a simplified licensing system that allows aquaculture consents to be
granted by regional authorities or the government.
At present, Local Authorities deal with applications for new aquaculture
sites through the terrestrial planning process, with advice from statutory
consultees and any representations from other interested parties such as wild
fish interests and the general public. Decisions now also have to give regard
to the Scottish National Marine Plan and future regional marine plans.
Marine and terrestrial development plans must jointly identify areas which are
potentially suitable, and sensitive areas which are unlikely to be appropriate
for such development, reflecting Scottish Planning Policy and any Scottish Government
guidance on the issue.
The Town and Country Planning (Marine Fish Farming) (Scotland)
Regulations 2013 also require that, before granting planning permission, there
must be consultation with the following bodies:
- the planning authority for the marine planning zone in which the marine
fish farm is situated;
- where the operation of the marine fish farm is likely to affect marine
waters in another marine planning zone, the planning authority for that marine
- Scottish National Heritage; and
- the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.
The Scottish National Planning Policy (the Policy) also sets out the
Government's planning guidelines regarding aquaculture. It states that the
planning system should support a sustainable and diverse aquaculture industry
that is competitive and viable, whilst still having due regard for the marine
The Policy also sets out guidelines for local development plans including
the making of positive provision for aquaculture developments, and setting out
the issues that will be considered when assessing aquaculture proposals. These
issues may include:
- impacts on, and benefits for, local communities;
- economic benefits of the sustainable development of the aquaculture
- landscape, seascape and visual impact;
- biological carrying capacity;
- effects on coastal and marine species (including wild salmonids) and
- impacts on the historic environment and the sea or loch bed;
- interaction with other users of the marine environment (including
commercial fisheries, Ministry of Defence, navigational routes, ports and
harbours, anchorages, tourism, recreational and leisure activities); and
- cumulative effects on all of the above factors.
It also states that where applications are made, they should be
supported, where necessary, by sufficient information to demonstrate:
- operational arrangements (including noise, light, access, waste and
odour) are satisfactory and sufficient mitigation plans are in place; and
- the siting and design of cages, lines and associated facilities are
appropriate for the location. This should be done through the provision of information
on the extent of the site; the type, number and physical scale of structures;
the distribution of the structures across the planning area; on-shore
facilities; and ancillary equipment.
Approval of new large finfish farms (>100t/yr, or >1000m2)
or farms located in a sensitive habitat also require the completion of an EIA.
Management of disease and parasitic infections is a major focus of
Scottish aquaculture legislation with regular monitoring conducted by the Fish
Health Inspectorate (FHI). The FHI has the power to prevent movement of
diseased stock, specify control measures, or order the culling of diseased
Aquaculture in Canada is governed at both the federal and provincial
level and is regulated by several pieces of legislation. At the federal level,
aquaculture is governed by the Fisheries Act 1985 (Canada) and the Species at
Risk Act 2002 (Canada) which protects wild species and their habitats; and the
Navigable Waters Protection Act 1985 (Canada) which governs maritime safety
Prior to 2012, the majority of new aquaculture developments were
required to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) under the Canadian
Environment Assessment Act 2012 (Canada) prior to gaining an approval for an
aquaculture development. However, an amendment to the Act removed the federal
requirement for an EA for aquaculture developments though EAs may still be required
by provincial governments.
Prior to 2012, the federal Fisheries Act 1985 (Canada) primarily focused
on any 'harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat'. This
historical legislation only considered the local and small-scale effects which
could be practically monitored and these were used as proxy measures for identifying
large-scale effects. In 2012 a review of the regulatory framework refocused
assessments on identifying large-scale effects.
A Decision Support System (DSS) is now used in Canada to assess both potential
far-field and near-field effects of new aquaculture developments, and to reduce
subjectivity and inconsistencies found between environmental assessments. The
DSS develops a cumulative score based on a series of questions and aquaculture
applications are rated as 'acceptable, provisionally acceptable or
unacceptable.' It assumes that far-field impacts exist, but does not quantify
them, and it seeks to position fish farms at a distance from any features which
may be adversely affected by the development.
Once a new aquaculture development receives approval, an operating
licence from the relevant provincial government must also be obtained. The
provincial government is responsible for ensuring that aquaculture operations
comply with both federal and provincial regulations, and they are also
responsible for conducting site inspections.
Aquaculture in New Zealand is regulated by the Resource Management
Act 1991 (NZ) and the Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions)
Amendment Act 2011 (NZ).
Prior to 2004, the approval process for new aquaculture projects was a two-step
process with local regional councils being responsible for granting 'resource
consents' and the Ministry of Fisheries providing marine farming permits.
In 2004, the Aquaculture Reform Act 2004 (NZ) created a single, process
for granting aquaculture consents and aimed to 'enable the sustainable growth
of aquaculture and ensure the cumulative environmental effects are properly
managed while not undermining the fisheries regime or Treaty of Waitangi
settlements'. The Act stated that finfish farms were only permitted in
Aquaculture Management Areas (AMA) designated by local regional councils.
However, due to complications with the process of creation of AMA, very few
aquaculture projects were approved.
In 2011, the Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions)
Amendment Act 2011 (NZ) repealed the requirement that finfish farms be located
in designated AMA. In addition, applications can be made to the Environmental
Protection Authority for plan changes or concurrent resource consents if producers
wish to locate farms in areas prohibited by coastal management plans.
The Resource Management Act 1991 (NZ) requires an Assessment of
Environmental Effects and a resource consent/coastal permit from the relevant
regional council or unitary authority for all new aquaculture developments. In
order to obtain a resource consent, public consultation is required which can
include both submissions and public hearings.
Once a resource consent has been obtained, the Ministry for Primary
Industries has responsibility for assessing the project to ensure it will not
have any Undue Adverse Effects on recreational, customary or commercial
fishing. Should a project be found to have Undue Adverse Effects, compensation
must be paid to the affected parties.
New Zealand does not have any regulations or standards governing the
environmental monitoring of aquaculture projects. Each individual resource
consent stipulates the size and location of the farm, the production limits,
and environmental monitory and compliance requirements. Some consents utilise
broader industry standards while some use standards that are specific to their
regional council as regional councils are responsible for ensuring compliance.
Issues common across jurisdictions
Across all these jurisdictions there are a number of common issues which
arise in the licencing and monitoring of aquaculture projects. In particular, regulation
of the industry is achieved through multiple pieces of legislation involving
regulatory authorities at both federal and regional levels of government. There
are also often difficulties in promoting and supporting a viable aquaculture
industry whilst simultaneously maintaining environmental integrity and the social
expectations of other users of the water space.
In New Zealand, the requirement for public consultation on individual
aquaculture resource consents has also led to lengthy and costly delays to
applicants. Additionally, the lack of designated areas for aquaculture has
impeded the expansion of the aquaculture industry.
Scotland sought to remedy both the complex application process, and the
lack of designated aquaculture water space, with the Marine Act 2010 (Scotland)
which now requires authorities to create marine development plans where
aquaculture is permitted. This has significantly lessened the time and costs
associated with applications as environmental impact assessments and public
consultation requirements for these areas are significantly reduced.
Each jurisdiction has also sought to develop mechanisms for monitoring
and reducing environmental impacts through both voluntary best management
practices and mandatory regulations.
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