Aquaculture boosted Scotland’s economy by £3.3 billion, figures show

Salmon Scotland says fish farming "generates vital wealth for the country and specifically for our islands and Highland coastal communities."


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Scotland’s fish farms have delivered a £3.3 billion boost to the country’s economy over the last decade, official figures have revealed.

The trade organisation for Scotland’s salmon-farming industry, Salmon Scotland, has today highlighted evidence for the industry’s contribution to the Scottish economy. A Scottish Government report shows farmers’ economic contribution increased by 76% in the years between 2011-2020, from £206 million to £362 million. The industry also grew its workforce, increasing farming staff by nearly a third over the same period.

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Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott said the research shows that farm-raised salmon “generates vital wealth for the country and specifically for our islands and Highland coastal communities.”

“All this has been achieved despite the incredible challenges of Covid and Brexit, and with the right government support – streamlined regulation, a more business-friendly approach to immigration in the post-Brexit environment, and action to tackle rural housing shortages – we can deliver further sustainable growth,” he said in a statement.

The Scottish Government reported that from 2011-2020 aquaculture was the third-largest marine contributor in Gross Value Added (GVA), behind oil and gas, and construction and water transport services. Aquaculture has also outgrown sea fishing during this period, accounting for 9.4% of the Scottish marine economy in 2020, compared to 7.3% for sea fishing. Salmon accounts for 96% of Scotland’s total aquaculture value, while recent UK Government data confirms that Scottish salmon was the UK’s largest food export in 2022.

Controversy over fish deaths during 2022

The salmon farming industry has come under scrutiny recently in Scotland with the news of a surge in fish deaths during 2022. According to records published by the Fish Health Inspectorate, the number of fish that died prior to harvest in 2022 was nearly double that of 2021 and triple of 2020, reaching approximately 16 million.

The news has recently led a group of Scottish politicians to call for a halt to expansion of salmon farms, writing to Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon to request a “moratorium” on the industry. The group also cite concerns over pollution, animal welfare, and the industry’s resilience to climate change and rising sea temperatures going forward.

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The reasons behind the fish deaths remain unclear, although the Scottish Government says the biggest culprit is possibly a micro-jellyfish bloom due to higher sea temperatures during 2022.

In his statement today, Tavish Scott said that the Scottish salmon industry “[delivers] the highest environmental and welfare standards”, and that “farm-raised Scottish salmon is a global success story that everyone in Scotland can take pride in”.

Salmon Scotland has also called for an overhaul of what it calls the “cluttered” regulatory and planning system for salmon farming, arguing that “with streamlined reform, further sustainable growth for Scotland’s rural communities is achievable, creating more high-paid, high-skilled local jobs”.

About Salmon Scotland

Salmon Scotland is the trade body for Scotland’s farm-raised salmon sector which sustains 12,500 local jobs and brings in nearly £800 million for the economy each year. It represents every company farming salmon in Scotland along with companies from across the Scottish salmon supply chain, championing the sector’s interests. Salmon Scotland also works with its members, the UK and Scottish governments and regulators to help shape the regulatory environment so both Scotland and its members can thrive.

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