SALMON farming has transformed the rural communities of the west Highlands and islands with jobs, investment and business opportunities, said the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation.
Responding to a weekend press report headlined ‘Is salmon farming doing more harm than good for Scotland?’, the SSPO’s chief executive, Scott Landsburgh, said that despite being only around 40 years old, the sector has made a big impact on remote regions of Scotland.
‘Schools are open, houses are built, local shops are busy because families are now able to stay and work in the communities they were brought up in.
‘Around salmon farming areas you hear people say again and again that without salmon farming they wouldn’t have the new playground or the swimming club or volunteers for mountain rescue, the Community Council.
‘Last year, salmon farming donated £735,000 to local sports and community groups. Salmon farming is more than just a business, it’s a social and economic lifeline for remote, rural parts of Scotland.’
Figures released last week showed that exports of Sottish salmon were valued at £600 million in 2017, up 35 per cent on the previous year. Farmed salmon remains the UK’s biggest food export.
‘More than 10,000 people work in salmon farming and related jobs like transport and processing,’ said Landsburgh (pictured).
‘With modern apprenticeships, training, and career opportunities, second generations are joining the sector.
‘From engineers to fish health managers, from marketing to vets, the range of jobs in salmon farming is impressive.
‘Farming salmon today is a far cry from the early years. Yes, the personal checks of the fish are still done day in, day out.
‘The fish need to be looked after, like any farm animals, with vaccinations and treatments to keep them clear of sea lice, and this is done under the vet’s supervision and plenty of regulation from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) and the government.’
The industry is currently the subject of two Scottish parliamentary inquiries, one by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and the second by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
Landsburgh said it is in farmers’ interests to protect the environment because salmon need high quality, cool water to thrive. But conditions are changing, with new threats such as micro jellyfish and algal blooms arriving as temperatures increase.
‘It has made a difference to salmon farming and it hasn’t been easy, but the industry is investing millions of pounds every year in scientific research to bring new equipment, new techniques and new training to Scotland.
‘Salmon farming is here to stay.’