Report highlights aquaculture’s ‘positive social impact’

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An economic study commissioned by Cooke Aquaculture Scotland argues that fish farming has a positive social impact on employment and communities in Orkney and the Northern Isles.

The study has been published as Cooke’s planning application for a new salmon farm at East Moclett, off Papa Westray in Orkney is due to be considered next month.

The report shows that a new farm can be transformational in terms of tackling local depopulation. Including bonus and overtime payments during 2020-21, it highlights that Cooke’s skilled and permanent jobs are paying an average of £35,112, which is 24.8% more than the Orkney average and 8.6% above the figure for Scotland.

The company’s local investment is having further impact by supporting local businesses and jobs, sustaining the uptake of local schools, ferries, shops and cafes, and creating ongoing operational spending with local businesses.

Orkney salmon farming sites tend to employ four or five people each in full-time equivalent jobs. Cooke’s Orkney processing centre in Kirkwall also employs a staff of more than 41.

For the remote islands especially, a new farm can be transformational in terms of tackling local depopulation, the report says.

Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, said: “When we first came to Orkney in 2014, as a family-owned company we understood immediately that the jobs we provided mattered – really mattered.

“They keep people and their families on the islands, attract new people to live here, and help businesses to thrive and schools to stay open.

“We have never forgotten that and now we employ 122 people in Orkney, 51 of them on our farms.

“That includes 25 new jobs created in 2016-2021, all of them helping to keep remote communities viable.”

James Park, head of insights at Salmon Scotland, welcomed the report and said: “The farm-raised Scottish salmon sector is responsible for creating thousands of high-paid, skilled and rewarding local jobs.

“Our member companies like Cooke Aquaculture Scotland are at the heart of our island communities, as this report shows.

“In many places the salmon farms help keep the local community alive, the school open, and support many local businesses.

“Together, our low carbon sector sustains more than 12,000 jobs in every part of Scotland and generates millions for the local economy, with everyone in the sector dedicated to delivering a sustainable future.”

The proposed farm at East Moclett, which is 2.9km offshore from Papa Westray, has been fully assessed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and all required modelling and data collection has been undertaken. SEPA has raised no issues or objections to the site.

Papa Westray

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