Crown Estate reviews fish farm rents Published: 14 September, 2005
THE Crown Estate is to initiate a review of the way it charges fish and shellfish farmers around the coast of Scotland, in a move welcomed by industry representatives.
The Estate owns the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile limit and charges fish and shellfish farmers who want to anchor their cages, long lines or other equipment in the UK’s coastal waters, just as a landowner charges a farmer rent for the use of their fields.
But the current system for charging salmon farmers, based on future projections of production levels, is undoubtedly complex and hard-to-follow. Now The Crown Estate is to use the opportunity presented by a planned review in 2008 to find a simpler and more transparent charging system.
As Frank Parrish, Director, Marine Estate at The Crown Estate, explained:
“The Scottish aquaculture industry has changed dramatically over the years. We have become increasingly concerned that the current salmon rental system no longer properly reflects the present circumstance of the modern fish farmer.
“We are also acutely aware of the importance of Scottish fish farming in providing employment in the Highlands and Islands – a challenge that all involved must help respond to.
“With a rent review due in 2008, we feel now is the time to examine how we charge our salmon farmers. The current charging arrangements are overly complicated and we would like to create a better system that is more open, transparent and easy-to-understand.”
A team of independent experts will be appointed to look at the current system of charging, including rent levels, and consider alternative methods of calculation for each sector. In order to reassure the aquaculture industry at a difficult time, The Crown Estate is guaranteeing there will be no increase in rentals for individual farmers for three years, no matter what the outcome of the review.
The Scottish Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development Rhona Brankin said:
“I welcome this Crown Estate initiative. It is sensible to simplify this complex system through a full review, especially given the commitment by the Crown Estate of no rental increase for three years.”
The review has been welcomed by a cross-section of industry representatives. Brian Simpson, Scottish Quality Salmon, commented: “The move to set up an independent expert panel to tackle the rent issue seems eminently sensible, particularly now when salmon farmers are lobbying hard to streamline the tangle of bureaucracy they already face with many other agencies. We welcome the three year guarantee of no rent increases as a good starting point for establishing a fair and equitable system for the future.”
And David Sandison of Shetland Aquaculture also welcomed the announcement, saying: “The industry has campaigned long and hard to the Crown Estate Commissioners for a review of charging methods and rent levels, so we welcome a truly independent panel being established to conduct a top to bottom review.
“We also appreciate the recognition and commitment by The Crown Estate to work towards a long term solution to one of the issues affecting the future competitiveness of the sector. It is essential that we can retain a viable and sustainable future for an industry that is central to many of the more remote and peripheral areas of Scotland.”
The Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers also support the move. “Although the regular rent review for the shellfish sector is not due until 2010, the ASSG welcomes this early re-assessment of the system and the level of rental charges. Recognition of the need to make adjustments to rents, in order to support the long term economic sustainability of the shellfish cultivation industry in these times of rapidly rising costs, is to be commended”, observed Doug McLeod, Chairman of the ASSG.
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