Southern exposure


Scotland was well-represented at the Aquasur trade show in Chile, as Mairi Gougeon reports

I have recently returned from an official visit to Chile, promoting Scotland’s aquaculture sector and exceptional produce on the world stage. In a busy programme, I joined innovative Scottish companies at a major trade fair, made site visits to learn from Chilean aquaculture businesses and undertook intergovernmental engagements with major aquaculture nations.

With more than 22,000 visitors, Aquasur is the largest aquaculture trade fair in the southern hemisphere and it was great to meet some of the Scottish businesses exhibiting. We know from research following Aqua Nor last year the value that these trade events can bring, with three-quarters of companies who joined us in the Scottish Pavilion in Norway expecting to see an increase in turnover after attending the event and most feeling optimistic about new business, customers or markets. I am keen to see what opportunities come from this visit for our innovative Scottish businesses in the valuable Chilean market.

I was pleased to meet directly with my ministerial counterparts, Norwegian State Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Even Sagebakken and Undersecretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture Julio Salas Gutiérrez from our hosts Chile. As well as one-to-one engagements, they joined me and representatives from Brazil and Denmark on a panel discussing how innovation can help make the aquaculture sector more sustainable.

A highlight was agreeing with Undersecretary Gutiérrez that Scotland and Chile will work towards a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on aquaculture. Technical work will soon be underway, with a view to signing a formal agreement by the end of the year. This follows on from an MoU signed with Chile at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 on the sustainable management of peatlands and wetlands. Seeing the progress already made in that area in just a few years was an encouraging and fascinating part of my itinerary, and a reminder of how determined action can lead to change and a more sustainable future.

Mairi Gougeon and Even Sagebakken (Norwegian State Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy)

Mairi Gougeon and Even Sagebakken (Norwegian State Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy)

Forging strong relationships with other leading fish farming nations is key to learning and sharing expertise. It also enhances Scotland’s standing on the world stage as an exporter of aquaculture products and services, and as a destination for inward investment.

Being on the ground in Chile also allowed me to see innovation in the sector first hand. This included salmon producers Lago Sofia, who are developing the nation’s first commercial aquaponics farm (using aquaculture water supply to grow plants without soil), and Ventisqueros, who have established Chile’s first salmon farm powered by 100% renewable energy.

I also visited a wellboat utilising new technology developed by Salmo Clinic, which removes medicine residues from water used in treatments before it is released back into the environment.

In Santiago, I was able to hear how Chilean salmon farmers are being supported by a consultancy to improve their engagement with coastal communities. It’s fascinating to see how these local challenges have direct relevance and resonance for Scottish producers. I hope we’ll be able to bring some of that learning back to Scotland.

Mairi Gougeon meeting Julio Gutiérrez (Undersecretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Chile)

Mairi Gougeon meeting Julio Gutiérrez (Undersecretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Chile)

I’m pleased to say that we don’t have to wait too long to revisit some of these new connections. Lago Sofia will attend Aquaculture UK in Aviemore this May to explore investment opportunities in Scotland in a visit funded by the Blue Bridge programme, alongside a broader delegation of Chilean aquaculture technology companies.

I’m delighted to be giving Aquaculture UK’s opening keynote. I’ll be talking about our Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture, collaborative actions to streamline aquaculture consenting and how we can work together to face shared challenges.

Aquaculture and its supply chain are worth over £1.8bn to the Scottish economy. The learning and connection from the Chilean visit will be invaluable in the Scottish Government’s continued ambition to grow the sector’s sustainability, diversity, innovation and economic prosperity.

Mairi Gougeon is Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands in the Scottish Government.

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