Opin­ion

Fish Farmer - - Contents - By Nick Joy

The oft re­peated mantra of the Scot­tish aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try is that it is the most heav­ily reg­u­lated aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try in the world. Cer­tainly the com­plex­ity of the sys­tem was high­lighted beau­ti­fully some time ago when our com­pany de­cided to go for you should not be in breach of the law, par­tic­u­larly that which per­tains to the en­vi­ron­ment.

How­ever, the law changes and know­ing all facets that ex­ist and fac­tor

We re­alised we were not alone when the in­dus­try de­cided to hire a com­pany that re­searches th­ese mat­ters and keeps you up to date.

To have to hire a spe­cial­ist com­pany in or­der to keep up with the law is a very wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ment.You see, for me, the law is next to use­less if the av­er­age man can­not understand it.

The largest prob­lem is that so­ci­ety feels that ev­ery bad thing that hap­pens must have some­one to blame and a law should be made to stop it hap­pen­ing again. Each time a law is cre­ated, it im­pacts on other laws and so on.

So we be­come ruled by more and more com­plex law which few but lawyers can understand. So we need more lawyers to ex­plain the law, and also to help us de­cide whether we need more law or how to im­ple­ment new law.

We have reached a sit­u­a­tion where the more lawyers there are, the more lawyers we need.

What makes this prob­lem even worse for farm­ers is that we are ruled by an ur­ban ori­en­tated gov­ern­ment (both West­min­ster and Holy­rood) that does not really understand aqua­cul­ture, and they in turn are force­fully guided by the EU, an­other ur­ban ori­en­tated form of gov­ern­ment.

I re­mem­ber well when my Orkney farm man­ager (of my sheep, not to look at farm prac­tice. On be­ing asked how many hours he worked, Ge­ordie replied 24.

In­cred­u­lous, the in­spec­tor asked why and Ge­ordie replied that lamb­ing ewes don’t have a clock.The in­spec­tor said that he could not put that down on the form. For the rest of the in­ter­view, quite rea­son­ably, the only re­sponse the in­spec­tor got was:‘Write down what­ever you want.’

So here we are with a gov­ern­ment that con­tin­ues to make law more peo­ple and faces enor­mous cli­matic chal­lenges to also op­er­ate in a com­plex le­gal frame­work.

I know it is the prov­ince of the older to think that life was eas­ier or bet­ter when we were young and maybe this is so, but I still feel strongly than we did.

- ing the en­vi­ron­ment. As I have said for a long time, if you want to en­sure no change to the en­vi­ron­ment, don’t leave home in the morn­ing.

Ev­ery­thing that hu­mans do changes the en­vi­ron­ment. If we had not changed it, the cur­rent world pop­u­la­tion would not be fed.

The crit­i­cal is­sue that we face is how we will feed the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.The sea has been se­verely de­pleted and the land is close to bust­ing point.Two thirds of our planet sur­face is sea and we have to know how to farm it.To farm it we will have to change it to some de­gree, just as agri­cul­ture has done.

To farm it we will need a gov­ern­ment that un­der­stands our needs but also we will have to have a more co­he­sive view of what is re­quired for sus­tain­able aqua­cul­ture to thrive.

The one thing that I have noted over a long ca­reer is that con­sol­i­da­tion of the in­dus­try has not led to greater co­he­sion or long term think­ing about what the reg­u­la­tory frame­work should look like.

It is time our in­dus­try stopped ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to sort out reg­u­la­tion and de­vel­oped a model that we think would work for our long-term sus­tain­able fu­ture.

If we do not de­velop it then the gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to re­act to in­dus­try de­trac­tors, con­sul­tants, ENGOs and their own agen­cies be­cause if the in­dus­try can­not pro­duce a work­able for­mula then they have no al­ter­na­tive. More and more law will be cre­ated and the cost to in­dus­try will be larger and larger.

While this is a new in­dus­try and op­er­ates in a new reg­u­la­tory area, it is not the world’s most com­plex.The law should be sim­ple to understand and to com­ply with. As Win­ston Churchill said: ‘If you have ten thou­sand reg­u­la­tions you de­stroy all

re­spect for the law.’

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