PLANS by Scottish salmon farmers to open their sites to the public in spring have been put on hold in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The new ‘Open Farm’ initiative involved all of Scotland’s salmon producers and would have seen 16 farms across the Highlands and islands providing a total of 64 tours throughout May.
The aim of the scheme, coordinated by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), was to engage the public and politicians in the operations of a salmon farm.
The ‘discovery days’ would have offered guests the chance to get out on a farm, watch the fish, talk to the farmers and learn more about how salmon from Scotland reaches supermarkets and restaurants throughout the UK and across the world, said the SSPO, unveiling the initiative for the first time today.
But as with other events involving public access, the SSPO has had to postpone the plans ‘for the foreseeable future’.
Salmon farmers’ priority during the unfolding coronavirus crisis was to keep farms focused on producing fish for the home market, said the SSPO.
‘Our first priority now has to be protecting the health and welfare of everyone working on the farms so that they can continue supplying UK consumers with salmon,’ said Hamish Macdonell, director of Strategic Engagement for SSPO.
‘While it is disappointing to postpone this ground-breaking project, we will bring it back again when the time is right.
‘The strategy behind the Open Farm month is to let people see for themselves how salmon is farmed, meet the farmers who are out on the lochs every day and learn how salmon farming has developed since the original idea 50 years ago.’
The SSPO had also planned to exhibit at the Royal Highland Show, which has also now been cancelled.
Macdonell added: ‘The SSPO priority now is to support the sector in maintaining supply of salmon to UK supermarkets and to ensure that we stay in daily contact with ministers in both the Scottish and UK governments, with regulators and other organisations while we deal with this most challenging situation.
‘In due course, we will be able to focus again on showing all our stakeholders why this is a sector we are proud of but for now our actions in managing the supply of healthy food is the right and only thing to do.’
A reception at the Scottish Parliament to showcase the progress made by the sector in the last year has already been postponed.