The Scottish Government is being urged to suspend its support for increased production in the salmon farming sector. It comes as a new report claims the impact the industry has on employment and the economy has been hugely overestimated.
The study suggests the sector’s gross value added (GVA) had been “possibly exaggerated by 124%”, while employment “could be overestimated by a massive 251%”.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing branded the timing of the publication of the report “disappointing”.
He said: “The Scottish Government’s focus at this time is fully on supporting our remote, coastal and island communities to cope with the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
“That includes supporting the thousands of jobs and livelihoods linked directly and indirectly to fish farming in these communities and elsewhere in Scotland, and providing people with a healthy, affordable source of protein by ensuring that supermarkets stock Scottish salmon.”
But Charles Millar, of the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, which commissioned the research along with Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, demanded the Scottish Government authorize an independent assessment of the economic contribution of salmon aquaculture “that considers the industry in the round”.
He spoke after the report branded the existing economic data for the sector “partial” and “incomplete”, claiming “income and employment evidence is unreliable”.
But industry body the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization said the report “makes grotesque assumptions, unfounded claims and offers numerous unsupported anecdotes as evidence”.
In a Commons debate last year, the Scottish salmon farming sector was described as being worth more than £1 billion to the economy, with MPs told it supported 12,000 jobs and had a GVA of £620 million.
But the report accused the Scottish Government of failing to consider the impact expanding the aquaculture sector could have on other industries, saying commercial fishers fear this could reduce their net profits.