The new Scottish Aquaculture Council which meets for the first time today will play a “crucial role” in shaping the future of rural communities for the next 50 years, the trade body for Scottish salmon said.

Salmon Scotland agrees with the findings of an independent review for the Scottish Government that the current regulatory regime is not fit for purpose and must be streamlined.

Farm-raised Scottish salmon directly employs 2,500 people in coastal areas of Scotland and supports more than 3,600 suppliers, with 10,000 jobs dependent on the sector.

Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest fresh food export, with overseas sales increasing to £614 million in 2021, while sales in UK shops soared to £1.1 billion last year as consumers increased their consumption of the protein-rich fish.

But while Scottish salmon farming is growing at about 1.4 per cent per year, Norway’s sector is already growing at three times that rate.

Norway has a single ‘one stop shop’ for licensing and community benefit, while Scotland’s cluttered licensing regime means that more than £20 million per year is due to be paid by salmon farmers to various regulators and quangos, and delays in the planning system are holding back sustainable growth.

The new Scottish Aquaculture Council will advise Scottish Ministers to help deliver the Scottish Government’s aspirations for the sector, ensuring equal progress across existing and new government commitments spanning regulatory efficiency, environmental protection and community benefits. 

This includes delivering on the next stages of the regulatory review in response to Professor Griggs’ independent report published earlier this year.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland said:

“Professor Griggs published his review in February, which sets out a detailed route map to better regulation that works for salmon farmers, local communities, government and society. 

“The task of the ministerial-led meeting is to deliver that new framework and do so within 12 months as Professor Griggs recommends. 

“The sector today, employing more than 10,000 people across the supply chain, is light-years from the cottage industry that emerged on the west coast more than 50 years ago. 

“The Council will play a crucial role in shaping that long-term vision for the next 50 years and develop a sustainable aquaculture sector that continues to grow responsibly and support coastal jobs and livelihoods in some of our most fragile, rural communities.”

Chaired by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, the first meeting will include discussions with Professor Griggs, the author of an independent review of the aquaculture regulatory process. 

Ms Gougeon said:

“Today is a significant step toward a stronger and more sustainable future for Scotland’s aquaculture industry.

 “Aquaculture is a significant employer in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities and its wider UK and global supply chain. It provides well paid jobs and produces healthy, quality food that is enjoyed worldwide.

“The sector can only truly be a sustainable success story if we work together to address and mitigate any impacts on the natural environment, whilst providing positive outcomes for Scotland’s communities. 

“The Scottish Aquaculture Council will help ensure that Scotland’s aquaculture industry is diverse, competitive and economically viable – achieving its full potential and protecting a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.”

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