Scottish government coalition partners demand salmon farming review

Editorial Staff

“Given the deterioration of welfare and environmental standards that this year’s mortality data in particular reflects, the commitments [in the Bute Agreement] no longer appear to be adequate to the challenge at hand.”

Ariane Burgess MSP, the Scottish Greens’ Rural Affairs spokesperson has called for the country’s salmon farming sector to be reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.

The party currently hold two ministerial posts in the Yousaf government following a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in August 2021.

Burgess has reached out to Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, urging immediate discussions to tackle the industry’s escalating problems, including rising fish mortality rates, disease, and environmental impact.

Despite previous calls by the Scottish Greens for a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farms, the party has been working with the Scottish Government and the industry to seek improvements.

However, Burgess expresses mounting frustration among communities and environmental activists over the perceived slow pace of reform.

In a letter to the minister, Burgess emphasized the urgency for meaningful action to mitigate the industry’s environmental effects and improve fish welfare.

“I would therefore appreciate an update on progress towards the relevant commitments made in the Bute House Agreement, and would urge you to take further action to reduce the industry’s negative impact,” she wrote.

Burgess stressed the need for rapid and significant reforms, citing the party’s concerns and growing public unease.

Key issues raised by the Highlands and Islands MSP include reconsidering exemptions for the aquaculture sector under the new National Planning Framework and enforcing stricter environmental regulations by SEPA on all fish farms.

130,000 back moratorium on Scottish salmon farming

Planning reforms needed

The letter also highlighted the need for strategic planning to prevent long-term environmental damage, enforcement of penalties for license breaches, and reducing the use of chemicals and waste.

Burgess noted that delays in implementing reforms are exacerbating welfare and environmental issues, as evidenced by this year’s high mortality rate. The urgency for enhanced measures to address these challenges is now more pressing than ever.

The Scottish Greens’ move underscores a growing concern for sustainable practices in the salmon farming industry, a crucial sector for Scotland’s economy and environment.

Salmon Scotland responds

“We support the Scottish Government’s vision for sustainable aquaculture, which was published last July and puts salmon farming at the heart of the country’s economic growth plans, helping Scotland’s journey to net zero and supporting healthy diets,” a spokesperson for trade body Salmon Scotland told SalmonBusiness.

“The blue economy has the potential to both increase food security at home and feed the growing global population. Scotland is uniquely placed to lead the way in the drive for the sustainable use of the oceans and seas, while conserving our shared environment for future generations.”

Salmon is the most popular fish among UK consumers, with new figures showing sales are up 3.2 per cent in a year. On a rolling annual basis, exports of the fish stand at £611 million – confirming Scottish salmon’s place as the UK’s top food export.

As well as being the UK’s largest food export, Scottish salmon generates £760 million for the local economy every year. Scottish salmon farms directly employ 2,500 people and support more than 3,600 suppliers, with a further 10,000 jobs dependent on farm-raised salmon.