Sunday, December 24, 2006

Scottish livebait ban set to become reality

A livebaiting ban in Scotland came another step closer to becoming a reality as the Scottish Parliament agreed in principle the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill.

Debating the bill last week, MSPs discussed tough new measures to eradicate the salmon parasite Gyrodactylus salaris in the event of an outbreak in Scotland.

They include the powers to poison river catchments if the disease, which is currently present in Scandinavian countries, is detected.

But Green MSP Eleanor Scott turned the debate to the ethics of livebaiting and the blanket ban which was now included in the fabric of the bill, instead of an earlier proposal to create the power for bait bans in areas where translocation of baits could put rare species at risk.

Ms Scott said: "There are two problems with using live fish as bait. First, if they escape the potential exists for them to establish themselves in areas where they do not belong—which, it has been argued, has already happened—with consequent effects on the ecosystem.

"The second problem is fish welfare. Some angling groups have suggested using as bait fish that were caught in the same waters on the same day. That would solve one problem, but it would not solve the fish welfare problem. Fish are sentient beings. That is acknowledged by the aquaculture industry, which has taken steps over the years progressively to safeguard fish welfare. I do not believe that any live vertebrates should be used as bait and I endorse the committee's request that the Executive lodges an amendment to prohibit the practice."

In her closing speech deputy environment minister Rhona Brankin, who endorsed the livebait ban, said: "I thank the members who have spoken in today's debate. The vast majority have been thoughtful and constructive and have brought a degree of consensus to our deliberations. I am glad that there has been widespread support for the broad sweep of our proposals from across the chamber. I believe that that reflects our stakeholders' views about the bill.

"Eleanor Scott talked about using live fish as bait. The Executive will lodge a stage 2 amendment to introduce explicit provision in the bill that will prohibit the use of live vertebrates as bait. That is in response to the committee's recommendations and stakeholders' wishes."

The bill was agreed in principle at the end of the debate, meaning it now looks certain to go to become law.
To read the whole debate click here. NB the fisheries bill is some way down the day's business.