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Business / Salmon farming well supported, industry survey finds

Former MSP for Shetland Tavish Scott is now the chief executive of Salmon Scotland.

A BIG majority of people in Shetland are supportive of salmon farming, according to a poll carried out by Ipsos Scotland on behalf of the industry.

The poll also found Shetlanders are viewing salmon farming more favourably than people in other areas where salmon is farmed.

The findings were – unsurprisingly – welcomed by the industry.

Chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, former isles MSP Tavish Scott, said it did not come as a surprise to him that Shetland was the part of Scotland where local people were most strongly supportive of aquaculture.

“We conducted this independent research among our neighbours as it’s important that we listen to local communities, and this confirms that people in Shetland are incredibly supportive of salmon farming,” he said.

The poll revealed that those supporting salmon farming do so because the sector is providing jobs for local people and helping to improve the local economy.

The research, carried out at the beginning of February, sought the views of 1,000 adults across these five areas of Scotland, including 200 in Shetland.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of people in Shetland support farms in their local area, and just five per cent opposed this.

The findings were welcomed by the two remaining salmon producers that work in local inshore areas.

Scottish Sea Farms’ regional manager Richard Darbyshire said: “These new poll results suggest that salmon farmers’ ongoing drive to farm responsibly is increasingly acknowledged and respected, which is hugely reassuring to see and serves as further motivation to keep pushing the boundaries as to what more we can do with regards to sustainable practices.”

His colleague at Cooke Aquaculture, Colin Blair, added: “Cooke Aquaculture Scotland’s seawater sites are located exclusively in Orkney and Shetland and we are one of the Northern Isles’ largest employers.

“As a responsible salmon farmer, we work hard to create long-term, well-paid coastal jobs and share prosperity in the island communities we live and work in.”

Salmon farming supports around 10,000 jobs in Scotland, and overseas sales of salmon exceeded £600 million last year.

The almost 20,000 tonnes produced in Shetland, valued at £130 million, account for 20 per cent of the Scotland-wide share. The sector support 470 local jobs.

There has been, however, some long-standing concern from some quarters when it comes to the environmental impact of salmon farming.

The Scottish Greens for instance are keen to introduce a moratorium on the licensing of new farms and the expansion of existing ones until environmental and animal welfare concerns are addressed.

The industry meanwhile has concerns that the growth of salmon farming in Iceland and Scandinavia could squeeze the Scottish sector and hold back the economic potential for rural communities.

Professor Russel Griggs recently published a report for the Scottish Government recommending a change in the regulatory structure which would enable the sector to grow and better invest in the communities in which they are based.