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Environment / Green MSP visits local salmon farm as part of fact-finding tour

Scottish Greens Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess.

HIGHLANDS and Islands Green MSP Ariane Burgess says she would like to see an aquaculture industry that is “beyond sustainable” while continuing to employ local people.

Speaking during a three-day visit to Shetland, which also included a tour of a salmon farming business, the newly elected MSP said she recognised the importance of the sector as an employer in rural Scotland.

The Greens became a laughing stock – at least in rural Scotland – last month after the party’s co-convener Lorna Slater told a national radio news programme that she did not know where salmon farms were located, and had never been to one, but was in favour of phasing out the industry.

Burgess said it had been straightforward to organise a visit to a fish farm in Shetland, but she was not prepared to reveal its location.

She said a 2018 report by the Scottish Parliament’s environment committee had voiced some strong concern on the impact the industry was having on the natural environment.

Damning salmon industry report warns of ‘irrecoverable’ environmental damage

“I recognise it is an important employer for Shetland. But the problem is that we don’t fully understand the impact it has on our marine environment and biodiversity,” she said.

“What I am interested in is a form of aquaculture that employs people and that also ensures that we have a future and that we have marine biodiversity 20 years from now, 100 years from now, and that can continue employing people.

“Shetland, and the whole Highlands and Islands region have a tradition of aquaculture. I want to make sure that it is one that is beyond sustainable, that is regenerative and allows the natural systems to regenerate for other species that inhabit our waters to co-exist.”

Following a similar visit to Orkney, she said she was in Shetland on a fact-finding tour and was trying to speak as many local people as possible.

This includes discussions with representatives of Hjaltland Housing Association about fuel poverty, affordable house and planning issues, visiting the Northmavine Community Development Company and meeting the council’s newly appointed climate strategy team leader officer Claire Ferguson.

Burgess said: ”I am recently elected, and I want to gather as much information as I possible can.

“It is important to get the perspectives of everybody involved (…) and that is what I am working on at the moment.”