Know your Scottish Salmon

Atlantic Salmon Farming: A Global Perspective on Transparency


Atlantic salmon farming is an industry which sprang to life in the 1970’s across the west and north-west coast of Scotland1. The industry has expanded across the world substantially, particularly in recent years with the increased concerns over population growth, climate change and protein consumption. However, aquaculture (the practice of farming seafood) will inevitably have an impact on the environment. Is it possible for salmon farming to support the Scottish economy without having large negative impacts on the environment?

At Fidra we believe that transparency is an indirect and very influential driver of improved practices within a sector. Transparency is essential across the industry and its stakeholders to highlight where the sector is performing well, and also underperforming, enabling stakeholders to be held accountable.

Current state of transparency across the industry globally

Norway is the world leader across the industry and have set a benchmark for transparency in aquaculture. The establishment of BarentsWatch2 10 years ago has made real time data available for salmon farms across the country. Although the general consumer may need a level of understanding of the sector to navigate confidently across the portal, Norway salmon products are the most transparent on the global market.

The Australian government and companies working across Tasmania have recognised the issues within the sector and have increased the accessibility of data substantially in recent years. Whilst the sheer volume of data seen on BarentsWatch2 is not available across any platform/dashboard, the Australian data is set up on a sustainability dashboard in an easily digestible format, where anyone, regardless of prior knowledge of the industry is able to navigate across any of the portals. The current dataset only spans from 2019-present. It is unclear if this limited data availability is linked to the resilience from the sector to provide information or if the data collection changed in 2019 and it was only easier hereafter to digitise this information.

Across the rest of the global aquaculture arena, access is considerably less sparse and less accessible to local communities and the public. As a minimum the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) produce annual yearbooks providing information on all aquaculture production, by species and country, or area (metric tons)4. Aside from this, information is not always available in English and the Faroe Islands do not have any publicly accessible data post-20125. In most countries, if it is not a requirement of government regulation to have data publicly available, companies are left to decide what they want to provide to local communities and consumers, with the result that data can be limited and hard to access.

Transparency in Scottish salmon farming

Across Scotland, like Norway, all environmental data is publicly available. However, this data is significantly less accessible. Firstly, the data available is shared across four platforms in different ways : Scotland Aquaculture website5 ;Scotland Environment website6; Marine Scotland Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI)7 ; and SEPA FOIs8.This Information is then accessed by selecting a category, you then can filter by date, fish type, site ID, site name and operator and sometimes local authority depending on the type of data. However, it is difficult to get a full overview on an individual farm’s performance. This removes accessibility, leaving only experts able to navigate through available data. However, what is important to note is that all information available is provided at a farm level, which is a more detailed level of information than in most other salmon farming nations.


The role of certification schemes

Certification schemes are used to help improve the supply chain, simplify and support the industry, enabling retailers and consumers to make better and more informed choices. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)9 and the Soil Association10 are the only certification scheme’s that publish any farm data at all online. However, the Soil Association only lists production sites and has no additional data. Many countries and companies are striving for sustainability through the commitment of farms to achieve ASC certification. However, in Scotland it is more difficult to get farms ASC certified, due to the way salmon are managed during the juvenile ‘parr to smolt’ production stage. The majority of smolt are raised in open freshwater pens, the ASC certification requires the smolt stage in farming to be carried out in closed pen systems, which is done across most of the industry except in Scotland. Other certification schemes are more accommodating of this, which has resulted in less Scottish farms being compliant for ASC certification.

What actions need to take place?

In light of the findings of our report, Fidra believe now is the right time for a Scottish dashboard and total transparency in the sector and makes the following recommendations:

1. Scotland has an extensive amount of publicly available data, but it needs to be more accessible for all levels of expertise (table 1).
2. A dashboard providing environmental parameters at farm-level is fundamental to hold the industry accountable.
3. Scotland’s ‘Vision for a Sustainable Aquaculture’ must include a real commitment to transparency to ensure the environment is kept at the forefront of decisions, particularly with the expected expansion of the industry.
4. Retailers must listen to the public. The public want easier access to information on Scottish salmon products they purchase, 83% of consumers support having the name of the farm on the label of Scottish salmon products. Labelling products with farm name and providing accessible information through a dashboard would put Scotland and the UK at the forefront of the global industry, which in turn could increase market performance locally and globally. Commitments from retailers to adhere to the three main transparency schemes (The Ocean Disclosure Project14; The Sustainable Seafood Coalition15; and Sustainable Fisheries 16) is important in order to encourage the adoption of best practice measures in terms of transparency. However, retailers would significantly increase transparency by labelling all their own-brand salmon products with the name of the farm that the salmon was produced on.

Table 1 Updated table of environmental criteria for optimal transparency for relevant 13


Our own and other consumer surveys have shown that there is a clear appetite for this data17, and this will continue to grow as people’s awareness of population growth, climate change and protein consumption increases. We believe consumers should be in the psotion to make informed choices, therefore the industry needs to be transparent with traceable supply chains which is accessible to all.  To learn more about transparency in salmon farming read our report.


  1. Salmon Scotland. The history of Scottish salmon farming. Published 2022. Accessed July 1, 2022.
  2. BarentsWatch. Fish Health. Published 2022. Accessed July 2, 2022.
  3. Tasmanian Government. Tasmanian Salmon Farming Data (Salmon Portal). Published 2022. Accessed July 17, 2022.
  4. FAO. FAO Yearbook: Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics: Aquaculture Production. Yearbook 2019.; 2021. Accessed July 27, 2022.
  5. Faroe Fish Farmers Association. Salmon from the Faroe Islands. Published 2012. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  6. Natural Scotland. Scotland’s Aquaculture Home. Published 2022. Accessed May 11, 2022.
  7. SEPA. Scotland’s Environment – Marine Fish farm Biomass . Published 2022. Accessed May 10, 2022.
  8. Marine Scotland. Fish Health Inspectorate.; 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  9. SEPA. SEPA Disclosure Log. Published 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  10. Aquaculture Stewardship Council. ASC Salmon Standard Version 1.3.; 2019. Accessed July 26, 2022.
  11. Soil Association. Organic Standards for Great Britain Aquaculture Version 1.1. .; 2022. Accessed July 26, 2022.
  12. Holland J. Scottish Aquaculture Council holds first meeting. Seafood Source. Scottish Aquaculture Council holds first meeting. Published June 28, 2022. Accessed July 1, 2022.
  13. Fidra. Two years on from 2 Scottish Parliment inquiries, it’s time to increase transparency and compliance. Published October 31, 2020. Accessed July 26, 2022.
  14. Ocean Disclosure Project. Transparency in Seafood. Published 2022. Accessed July 1, 2022.
  15. Sustainable Seafood Coalition. Guidance – Voluntary Codes of Conduct.; 2021. Accessed June 21, 2022.
  16. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. How We Work. Published 2022. Accessed July 1, 2022.
  17. Fidra. Scottish Salmon Farming – Consumer Survey Results.; 2022. Accessed July 1, 2022.

Thumbnail photo Credits

Left: World map image on thumbnail by blackdovfx from Getty Images

Right: Salmon farm, Loch a Chairn Bhain, Highlands, Scotland by phbcz from Getty Images

Back to the top