As the largest producer of farmed salmon in the European Union, and the third largest in the world, Scotland's aquaculture industry is a major success story.
Of equal importance to the Scottish economy as Sea Fisheries, the fish farming sector has a farm-gate value of around £350 million, and employs nearly 6,000 people in production and processing in Scotland.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation recently stated that developing sustainable aquaculture policy is the only way to meet surging demand for seafood.
The Fresh Start Framework follows a wide-ranging consultation process and sets out plans for a refocused Ministerial Group on Aquaculture. It also includes specific measures to:
- Improve planning and development of fish farms
- Better marketing of farmed fish
- Tougher defences against disease
- Measures to ensure fewer escapes
The Framework will also see the Scottish aquaculture industry further develop its learning culture, for example by encouraging bids from the industry to the European Fisheries Fund for the training and education needs of its workforce.
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, who officially launched the framework in Parliament today, said:
"Scottish aquaculture is a major success story for Scotland and an important asset to our economy. Our new framework aims to write the next chapter and enhance Scotland's reputation for being at the forefront of sustainable fisheries.
"The United Nations recently stated that aquaculture is probably the world's fastest growing food-producing sector, accounting for almost half of the fish consumed in the world. Scotland must be well placed to benefit from this increased demand.
"Aquaculture is one of the lifelines of our rural economy. Primary salmon production generated local wages of over £36 million last year primarily in the Highlands, Shetland, Argyll & Bute, Western Isles and Orkney.
"I am therefore looking forward to chairing the new Ministerial Group which will oversee some very important work that will be used to shape future policy. "
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation states that aquaculture is probably the world's fastest growing food-producing sector, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the world's consumed fish, compared to just 9 per cent in 1980. Importantly, it suggests that aquaculture in the only way to meet surging world-wide demand for seafood in a way that is sustainable. Scotland should be in a good position to benefit from that increased demand.
The sub-groups will address the following issues respectively:
- Healthier Fish and Shellfish - although Scotland's fish health status compares well with other countries farming the same species, this group will focus on the continued improvement of defences against the spread of disease. This group will make recommendations on how effectiveness can be optimised.
- Improved Systems for Licensing Aquaculture Developments - this group will focus on strategically expanding and growing the industry in appropriate areas, and addressing the issue of expired or unused consents from fish-farming companies.
- Improved Containment - fish escapes had considerably lessened in 2008 from 2007; however, the group will ensure this is maintained and consider the most appropriate equipment/facilities to ensure containment. International best practice will also be explored.
- Better Marketing and Improved Image - dedicated to promoting a positive image of Scottish aquaculture at home and abroad, this group will raise awareness of the health, economic and environmental benefits.
- Access to Finance - the aquaculture industry faces challenges securing finance and this group will consider what can be done to improve this situation. EFF money is already helping businesses invest in technology and support.