Know your Scottish Salmon

Scottish Parliament’s REC Committee inquiry draws to a close

The ongoing Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s inquiry into Salmon Farming in Scotland has received over 150 written submissions to date, with a wide range of views evident, from individuals, community groups, NGOs, retailers and industry. Five of the six scheduled evidence sessions have been held, with the final one due on 9th May with Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

There seems to be little disagreement that changes are necessary for the industry to proceed in a sustainable manner, both environmentally and economically. The environmental and economic impacts are indisputably linked, as it is in the industry’s best interest to function in an environmentally sustainable manner in order to future-proof salmon farming in Scotland. The evidence given by industry representatives to the REC Committee suggests that a more adaptive management approach is being taken or considered. Such an approach could be encouraged by stronger enforcement of current regulations, and more rigorous assessment of present operations by regulators.

An urgent need is apparent for more research and innovation to understand and manage the challenges being faced, and any expansion in the industry should be taking this into consideration. Several NGOs are calling for a moratorium on expansion, in terms of new sites and increased biomass limits at existing sites, until such challenges are adequately addressed. Whether or not this occurs, any expansion now or in the future should be linked to a proven record of effective mitigation actions.

Greater transparency and more comprehensive data dissemination from all aspects of salmon farming is required: the producers, regulators and retailers. By making farm by farm data available for public viewing and clearly presented, farmers will make it easier to assess how they are managing current challenges. Regulators can add to this by providing details of licence breaches and monitoring surveys with unsatisfactory results, and any action taken. Retailers also have a responsibility to provide as much information as possible on the salmon they sell, such as which individual farms the salmon originated from and any certification schemes used.

The significant investment that will be needed, such as for increased research and regulation, can only benefit the long-term sustainability of salmon farming in Scotland. It is therefore in the interest of the industry, government and retailers to facilitate and fund such changes.