Study to assess sustainability of Scottish salmon sector –

Study to assess sustainability of Scottish salmon sector Published:  24 July, 2007

Sid Patten

THE Scottish salmon farming industry announced today that it is to embark on the first-ever industry-wide assessment of the sector’s sustainability.

Independent experts from the fields of the environment, energy, economic and social impact, and aquaculture are to identify challenges facing the industry and recommend solutions to enhance the sector’s performance.

The study – ‘Sustainability in Scottish salmon aquaculture: key components and drivers’ – was commissioned by the industry’s trade body Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). It will cover waste generated within the production cycle, energy utilisation, carbon emissions and the socio-economic benefits of the industry.

An Aquaculture Sustainability Working Group is to be established to assist the development of the study, comprising representatives from regulatory bodies, environmental NGOs, enterprise agencies and industry.

Focusing on the farming element of the business, the study will incorporate primary research, a literature review and a desk study. An assessment of how the Scottish salmon farming sector compares with other food producing businesses will also be included.

Sid Patten, Chief Executive of SSPO, describes the study as “a wide-ranging assessment of the industry’s sustainability” and “integral to its on-going development”.

He said: “We are seeking to identify the issues included within the three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and the environment – to further enhance the sector’s environmental performance and socio-economic contribution.

“Salmon farming is already a significant social and economic contributor to rural areas, where businesses sustain many small, remote communities.

“And as a result of investment in research and development, the introduction of environmental management systems and the adoption of new technologies, the industry continues to make progress in improving efficiencies of production which also brings considerable environmental benefits.”

Mark Taylor of Thistle Environmental, the lead consultants on the project, said: “Whilst many companies and public sector organisations are now undertaking sustainability assessments, this project is unusual because it considers the sector as a whole. This is a proactive, forward looking and valuable project.”

Sandy Cumming, Chief Executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, commented: “The Scottish salmon farming industry has always sought to minimise any environmental impacts. It is now clear that this industry, which has sustained many remote communities over the last 30 years, must also consider the wider environmental consequences of operating a global business with internationally sourced raw materials and overseas consumers.

“Scottish salmon as a product has an enviable reputation with consumers. This can be enhanced still further by identifying ways that it can be produced using methods that are as environmentally sustainable as possible.”

It is anticipated that the findings will inform current salmon farming practice, assist in the preparation of environmental impact assessments, inform customers and give background for communication with the public on the sustainability of the Scottish salmon farming sector. In addition, it is also highly likely that the study will identify areas for further research and development.