The globe’s population will double by 2050, notably in Africa where a greater proportion of people go hungry than on any other continent.
Our oceans can produce the protein that is needed to feed the world, which is why the United Nations has recognised their vital role for our “health, well-being and survival on planet earth”.
In Scotland, our local blue economy can lead the way.
Scottish salmon, grown in the waters off our west coast and the northern islands, is sought after as the best in the world.
It is enjoyed in more than 50 countries across the globe, providing one of the most nutritious foods we can eat – and at a very affordable price for households.
Scottish salmon has held prestigious ‘Label Rouge’ certification in France for more than three decades, and the world-class provenance of Scottish salmon means it has protected status, putting Scottish salmon alongside other premium food and drink including champagne, Scotch whisky, Parma ham and Stornoway black pudding.
And with global demand for salmon on the increase, we need to produce more fish in Scotland’s waters.
Scotland has the opportunity to lead the way in unlocking the blue economy, and responsibly producing healthy, nutritious food, with a carbon footprint that is smaller than almost any other farmed sources of animal protein.
As well as being the UK’s largest food export, Scottish salmon generates £760 million for the local economy every year and makes up 9.4 per cent of the entire marine economy.
That’s even more than Scotland’s renowned fisheries sector, which stands at 7.3 per cent.
The global success of Scottish salmon safeguards the jobs of 2,500 people – mainly in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities – as well as a further 10,000 jobs in 3,600 supply-chain businesses that depend on the sector.
So Scotland is uniquely placed to lead the way in the drive for greater use of the oceans and seas, while conserving our shared environment for future generations.
But like all sectors, we face challenges from issues ranging from climate change to Brexit to rampant inflation, and it’s only by working together with government, regulators and international organisations that we can continue to grow a low carbon, highly nutritious food that sustains thousands of jobs and ensures our rural communities can thrive.
Our own vision is for an aquaculture sector that grows, develops and thrives, led by science and evidence.
Our sector can provide significant economic benefit, not just in the areas where we farm, but for the whole of Scotland, through the supply chain and the income we generate.
We must continue to be a good neighbour to other marine users and an excellent steward of the environment, respecting the biodiversity in our seas and lands and operating in the most responsible way.
This can be achieved while ensuring we are globally competitive, because we need to retain and build on our existing international market share.
We must continue to innovate, investing in research and development to remain at the cutting edge of responsible aquaculture.
The Scottish salmon sector is resilient to climate change, but we are not complacent and we recognise the need to do more now to ensure security of supply in future decades.
Salmon has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any farm-raised animal, so our sector is a crucial to reducing emissions to help the climate.
To deliver on the true potential of the blue economy, our sector will also need continued support from government in the years ahead.
We need regulatory reform so that we can better support the coastal communities where we operate.
At present, the licensing programme for salmon farms in Scotland is lengthy and there are several bodies involved in the process.
If the system is more streamlined, as recommended in a recent independent review, we can deliver the responsible and sustainable growth needed to continue creating vital jobs in Scotland, generating millions for the economy.
We also remain determined to improve housing availability in rural Scotland so that we can provide further growth in the areas where we farm.
We have been calling for seabed leasing rental money paid by salmon farmers to be reinvested into rural communities, with a particular focus on housing, to make it easier for people to live and work in our beautiful highlands and islands, and to keep these communities viable.
Post-Brexit, we want to see a more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK, including a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level, and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people coming here to work in the post-Brexit era.
The Scottish salmon sector continues to be a bright spot on the Scottish and UK economy. By working together with industry and government, the Scottish salmon sector can be at the forefront of the blue revolution and deliver prosperity and climate-friendly food for many decades to come.