Know your Scottish Salmon

A look back at the international year of artisanal fisheries and aquaculture 2022

The international year of artisanal fisheries and aquaculture (IYAFA) 2022 was seen as an opportunity to highlight the ‘importance of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture for our food systems, livelihoods, culture and the environment’1

In Scotland whilst small scale fisheries exist, small-scale fish farmers are few and far between. Scottish aquaculture once seen as a small-scale local commodity is now the biggest food export and is dominated by 12 companies. Just 8% of companies produce 92% of the value across aquaculture in the UK2 , smaller aquaculture businesses have been bought by larger monopolies across the sector, even giants such as Grieg’s seafood sold all its Scottish farms to Scottish sea farms in 20213.


The Atlantic salmon farming industry is the most established form of aquaculture worldwide. It is estimated over 17,000,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon is produced annually 4. Scotland is the third largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon globally, in 2021 there were 213 active fish farms spread across the West of Scotland, Western isles, Orkney and Shetland 5–7. Brown/sea trout, halibut and cleaner fish are all also farmed in the Scottish aquaculture industry. Rainbow trout is the second most farmed fish species with 22 companies operating across 48 active sites 7. One company specialises in the artisan production of Scottish Atlantic halibut8,  cleaner fish (ballan wrasse and lumpfish) are farmed by two and trout production is increasing 7, but are the small-scale aquaculture businesses being left behind? Few, smaller finfish aquaculture operations exist across Scotland, although seafood such as muscles, oysters and seaweed are all farmed by small-medium scale businesses9.


Over the last year, despite the limited movement towards improving awareness of small-scale fisheries or farmed seafood within Scotland there has been some significant moments in 2022:

  • The 2021 Griggs report outlined that salmon farming should not be allowed to grow or expand if the environmental impacts of the industry were not addressed and this was accepted, in principle, by the Scottish Government. It is anticipated that the Griggs report will have an influence on the Scottish Government’s Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture, expected to be available early 2023;
  • Fidra also hosted a workshop attended by retailers, government, NGO’s and researchers, where it was acknowledged every part of the supply chain is responsible for improving traceability and transparency 10;
  • Accreditation, is on the rise across Scotland and now all Sainsbury’s suppliers of fresh Atlantic salmon are ASC certified11;
  • All retailers are now part of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition’s Ocean Disclosure Project too 12;
  • Fidra shone a light on the current levels of transparency globally, which emphasised the importance of accessible data, if Scotland want to be world leaders in Atlantic salmon aquaculture 13;
  • WWF, Storebrand, Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and Grieg Seafood shared an insightful study that demonstrated the necessity for aquaculture companies to report nature related risks3;
  • Planet Tracker produced a report on the financial benefits of traceability across global seafood citing Atlantic salmon as one of the most traceability-ready species14.

Overall, 2022 was an important year, where progress has been made to increase transparency across the sector there has also been an increased desire for more information to be more accessible. With the Scottish Government’s Vision for Aquaculture imminent, we hope 2023 is the beginning of putting the environment first and the creation of a working group to progress with a much-needed accessible salmon farming dashboard.



  1. FAO (2022). International year of artisanal fisheries and aquaculture 2022.
  2. Seafish (2022). UK Seafood in Numbers – 2021. (2022).
  3. Fish Farming Expert (2021). Grieg sells Scotland operation to Scottish Sea Farms for £164m. Fish Farming Expert.
  4. FAO (2021). Assessment of agricultural plastics and their sustainability: A call for action. doi:10.4060/cb7856en.
  5. Marine Scotland (2022). Fish Health Inspectorate.
  6. SEPA (2022). Scotland’s Environment – Marine Fish farm Biomass .
  7. Marine Scotland (2021). Scottish Fish farm production survey 2020.
  8. Gigha Halibut (n.d.). Gigha –  Halibut.
  9. Crown Estate Scotland (2022). Blue economy opportunities for Scottish farmed shellfish.
  10. Fidra (2022). Improving transparency and traceability of farmed Scottish salmon to support climate- and biodiversity- responsible sourcing. Preprint at
  11. Sainsbury’s (2022). Sainsbury’s first UK supermarket to offer 100% ASC certified fresh Scottish salmon.
  12. Ocean Disclosure Project (n.d.). Transparency in Seafood.
  13. Fidra (2022). A global comparative study of present transparency and information databases on salmon farming.
  14. Planet Tracker (2022). How to trace $600 billion.

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