Study calls for halt to expansion of fish farming

By Peter Urpeth, local democracy reporter

Expansion of the salmon farming industry should be put on hold to consider further evidence of the cost of the industry to other economic sectors, a study has concluded.

The study, commissioned by the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust and Salmon and Trout Conservation, claims that the economic costs of the industry have “never been assessed by the government”.

The study claims that the industry’s gross economic value could have been “exaggerated” by 124 per-cent, while employment levels could be overestimated by 251 per-cent.

Study co-author Dr Geoffrey Riddington said the Scottish Government’s support for salmon farming expansion “relies exclusively on estimates about income and employment creation”.

The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, described the timing of the publication as disappointing.

He said: “This report does not reflect the substantial and growing jobs supported by the sector in the supply chain in Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said the study had made “grotesque assumptions”.  

“While offering employment to thousands of people in some of the country’s most fragile rural communities, salmon farms occupy just 168 hectares of Scotland’s 10,000 mile coastline – ensuring minimal interference with recreational marine activities,” the spokesman said.

The commissioners of the study state that it was an independent economic report and has been subjected to an independent peer review.