Sea lice and Brexit among Scottish seafood challenges

By Helen Gilbert

- Last updated on GMT

Aquaculture faces a number of challenges, including sea lice and Brexit, according to the Scottish government
Aquaculture faces a number of challenges, including sea lice and Brexit, according to the Scottish government

Related tags: Value added, Salmon, Scotland

Sea lice, and the effect of Brexit on international trade relationships and employment, are among the challenges that may hinder the growth of the Scottish fish and shellfish market, a report has found.

According to the Scottish government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) study – Aquaculture to Scotland: A report for Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Marine Scotland​ – fish and shellfish farming contributes £620M to the national economy a year.

Scottish aquaculture production increased by a third from 142,000t to 188,000t in the 10 years to 2015, supporting more than 12,000 jobs. Atlantic salmon production alone accounted for 90% of all economic impact, supporting 10,340 full-time equivalent jobs, and generating £540M in gross value added, the report stated.

The problem of sea lice on salmon

However, industry also needed to overcome a number of challenges to sustain growth, including the problem of sea lice on salmon, which is on the rise. In April, seafood giant Marine Harvest blamed sea lice for a 9.4% fall in global salmon harvest​ last year, after revealing 69% of its Scottish salmon farms broke statutory sea lice limits.

Attracting an adequate labour supply when regulations for non-UK workers change, encouraging young people in Scotland to take up aquaculture as a career, and achieving environmentally sustainable higher biomass limits were also cited as potential hurdles.

“We are delighted that this new and updated report confirms that the economic and social impact of aquaculture in Scotland is even greater than previous reports had shown, with 12,000 jobs currently dependent on the sector,”​ Stewart Graham, co-chair of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group said.

‘Opportunities which need to be grasped’

“The report also confirms that the opportunities which need to be grasped and the challenges which need to be overcome as set out in our 2030 industry strategy have been clearly identified.”

Charlotte Wright, chief executive at HIE, added: “We welcome the report’s findings which both highlight the significant growth opportunities, and confirm the challenges that must be overcome to realise industry ambitions.

“The research shows that there is capacity for growth in the industry and we look forward to working with them to achieve this.”

Scottish aquaculture – at a glance

  • Production increased from 142,000t to 188,000t in 10 years
  • Supports more than 12,000 jobs
  • Salmon farming generated £540M

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