SCOTLAND could grow its aquaculture sector if it increased the scale of its farms in line with some Norwegian models.
This was the message from Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher, who took a party of aquaculture officials on a tour of a SalMar farm in Norway this week.
The site, at Froya – about two and a half hours’ drive from Trondheim, had 14x150m cages containing around 2.5 million fish in total.
This represents 12 to 13,000 tonnes gutted weight, far greater capacity than currently permitted at Scottish farms. One cage can produce almost the same as an entire farm in Scotland.
Gallagher wanted to point out the difference in scale of a Norwegian salmon operation to his guests, who included Terry A’Hearn, chief of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), Anne Anderson, also of Sepa, Charlotte Wright, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and Heather Jones, chief executive of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre.
It would be easier to manage sea lice, waste and so on with just two or three of these size farms instead of many more smaller farms, said Gallagher. The Froya site has a sea depth of 50m and strong currents, similar characteristics to Orkney, for example.
The group also looked at computer monitoring of the environmental impact of the Froya farm.
Gallagher said the trip to SalMar, which owns Scottish Sea Farms, was to see how farming is done in different countries and demonstrate to the environmental agencies ‘what could be done in Scotland to our mutual benefit’.
‘We’re on that journey…it’s all part of the Industry Leadership Group’s dialogue,’ he added. The ILG, of which Gallagher is co-chair, was created to double growth in the industry by 2030.
He acknowledged that there was ‘definitely a willingness’ on the part of the agencies to engage. He also stressed the need for the whole supply chain in Scotland to keep pace with farmers’ ambitious growth targets.
Visiting the Scottish pavilion at Aqua Nor in Trondheim, he said that as the salmon companies expanded they would like to be able to buy their equipment from Scottish suppliers.
Picture: Sepa’s Terry A’Hearn and Anne Anderson with Froya’s site manager (courtesy of Heather Jones, SAIC)