AQUACULTURE industry representatives from around Scotland are holding a meeting in Edinburgh today to discuss how to accelerate the sector’s growth.
But despite industry leaders’ stated aim of improving transparency as a criteria of expansion, the gathering, of nearly 100 delegates, is to take place behind closed doors.
The decision not to invite press and public was apparently at the insistence of the conference’s public sector organisers, who include Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Marine Scotland, the Scottish government and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).
Rural Economy minister Fergus Ewing, a fervent supporter of growing the industry sustainably, will attend the summit, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
It will also bring together producer companies, a range of supply chain businesses and public agencies.
The focus will be on the supply chain, and the agenda is said to be linked to the industry’s 2030 vision for growth, being driven by the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group, of which Ewing is a member.
Also on the agenda is the Farmed Fish Health Framework, championed by Ewing, who stressed at its launch last year the importance of information flow, with ‘transparency and open communication embedded as key principles’.
When asked why this key principle was not being applied to today’s meeting, a spokesman for HIE said it was ‘an invite only summit involving firms active in the industry supply chain’.
Enquiries to the Scottish government and SAIC about the guarded nature of the event went unanswered.
A press release issued by HIE said delegates would be exploring ‘commercial collaboration as a model for maximising resources and accelerating growth, while safeguarding each company’s own competitive advantage’.
Research by HIE in 2017 found that 12,022 jobs across Scotland were dependent on the aquaculture industry. For every job in primary production there are five jobs in the supply businesses.
Ewing said: ‘I am delighted that we have managed to encourage so many influential people to attend the summit today.
‘The continuing uncertainty around Brexit means that it’s more important than ever for those involved in the aquaculture supply chain to use opportunities like this to meet and share concerns, and agree on how we can work together to protect and enhance this important sector.
‘I’m certain that by working collaboratively, we can continue to ensure a sustainable future for aquaculture in Scotland.’
Picture: Fergus Ewing