Know your Scottish Salmon

Scottish Government publishes Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture

The Scottish Government has published its plans for the aquaculture industry in Scotland leading to 2045, in the form of their long-awaited Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture[1]. A major industry in Scotland, aquaculture consists of shellfish, seaweed and finfish farming, as well as a wider aquaculture supply chain. In 2018 it contributed £885 million to the  Scottish economy, mainly from the production of Atlantic salmon which makes up 97% of the industry. Scottish salmon is the largest food export for both Scotland and the UK, with 205,393 tonnes produced in 2021, making it also the 3rd largest farmed salmon-producing nation in the world.

Setting out ambitious targets

The Vision document is the first publication of its kind in relation to aquaculture for the Scottish Government, following 2 parliamentary inquiries[2] [3] and a regulatory review by Professor Griggs in the last 5 years[4]. Through outlining a range of outcomes, it aims to create a balance between the economic, societal and environmental aspects of the aquaculture sector, considering its benefits alongside the need to work within environmental limits.

Included in this is alignment with the outcomes of the Scottish Government’s 2022 Blue Economy Vision, to protect nature and manage activities in marine ecosystems, minimising negative impacts and reversing them where possible, ensuring Scotland’s blue economy is resilient to climate change.

The Vision is intended as an overarching guide to policy development

In order to guide policy the Vision was developed with five guiding principles (below) on the environment, the inclusion of which are welcomed:

          • principle that protecting the environment should be integrated into the making of policies;
          • precautionary principle as it relates to the environment;
          • principle that preventative action should be taken to avert environmental damage;
          • principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source;
          • principle that the polluter should pay.

While the Vision did not go to public consultation, it was developed with input from a wide range of stakeholders, including but not exclusive to members of the Scottish Aquaculture Council, a working group set up by Scottish Government following the regulatory review by Professor Griggs. This approach is reflected in the inclusion of the three key themes of environment, society and economy in the Vision, demonstrating the value of diverse stakeholder input that includes environmental and societal interests as well as economic.  In addition to the three central themes the spatial planning commitment is welcome, in particular the aim to improve ‘understanding and effective management of cumulative risk and impacts’.

Implementation of the Vision is now key

A focus on innovation and regulation as enablers of the outcomes will be essential to fulfil the aim of the Vision. Within this aim the commitment for information on aquaculture regulatory performance and requirements to be clear and accessible is welcome, with data on compliance assessment and guidance on all regulations that govern the aquaculture sector being made publicly accessible online for all interested parties. This is a long-standing ask of Fidra’s Best Fishes project[5], in order to convey accountability and enable clear understanding of Scottish salmon farming’s environmental performance.

We would now like to see the Vision’s aims reflected in constructive workplans with definitive timelines, as soon as possible. We would also like to see the Scottish Government’s approach of multi-stakeholder engagement continued alongside this, with inclusion of all stakeholders including NGOs and local community representatives.









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