Associate Feature: A blueprint for the blue economy with sustainability at its heart
To tackle the world’s climate emergency we need a healthy blue economy.
That’s why aquaculture was such a key part of the COP26 debates that resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact last November.
Scotland’s farm-raised salmon sector is committed to environmental sustainability, and we are determined to increase the vital role that we can play in providing healthy food to a global population while minimising our carbon footprint.
Aquaculture is uniquely placed to contribute to food security due to the highly nutritious nature of seafood, contributing greatly to future protein supply.
More than 100 days on since COP26, the Scottish Government now has a blueprint for change that can make Scotland a world leader in regulating the blue economy.
In February, Professor Russel Griggs published his independent review into the system governing aquaculture in Scotland.
The Scottish Government is to be congratulated for commissioning this work and for examining the existing regulatory regime which, as the report clearly demonstrates, does not work.
The challenge now is to implement the review’s recommendations so that we can build a framework that is better, more efficient and more transparent than before.
It must strike the right balance between the environment, the economy and the social licence of fish farming, ensuring we are internationally competitive in delivering protein for the domestic market and overseas.
Scottish salmon is an extraordinary success story, with the most recent official export figures cementing its place as the UK’s biggest food export.
In 2021, salmon overseas sales increased to £614million - up 36 per cent compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618million recorded in 2019.
The growth is testament to the hard work of farmers who are committed to responsible production ensuring high environmental and welfare standards.
But we must also be aware that our Scandinavian counterparts are growing faster and selling more salmon, which is why it is imperative that government enables a regulatory framework that is both transparent and efficient to ensure that Scottish salmon retains its place as the key flag-bearer for quality exports from Scotland.
Back in 2010, Scotland had 10 per cent of the global salmon market, yet by 2020 this share had shrunk to 6.6 per cent.
If we simply stand still we will lose export revenue, influence and market share, leaving us on the fringes of a market we used to help dominate.
If that happens, we will lose our chance to ensure that Scotland is at the forefront of the sustainable blue economy that was prioritised at COP26 in our own country.
We also have to face the reality that it is simply more expensive to grow salmon here than elsewhere, and part of that extra cost comes in the form of regulation.
We look after our fish 365 days a year in the best and worst of weathers, and our sector should absolutely be regulated. But it must be quicker, more efficient and clearer for all so that we can deliver sustainable growth.
This can be achieved in line with our industry’s sustainability charter, first published in 2020.
The charter contains 41 actions, all designed to ensure we protect animal welfare, communities and the environment.
Everyone in the sector is passionate about sustainability and creating a green future for salmon farming in Scotland.
But to keep up this pace, and truly deliver on the potential of salmon farming in Scotland, we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a framework that sets us on a clear path to sustainable, responsible, low-carbon and high protein growth.
This article is sponsored by Salmon Scotland.