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'Green Tape' Threatens Scottish Industry

UK - Inflexible environmental regulation is costing Scotland's salmon farming sector millions of pounds in lost investment. It also threatens the industry's ability to combat fish disease says the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO).

Sid Patten, chief executive of the Perth-based SSPO, said that a reluctance to streamline regulation and a lack of commercial acumen among regulators and legislators are preventing fish farmers from satisfying growing domestic and overseas demand.

"In aquaculture, and the salmon industry in particular, there is a regime in which the regulators and, to some extent, the legislators continue to be far more stringent in their application of similar rules than in our competitor countries," he said. "That is constraining the sustainable growth of a salmon industry that produces 125,000 tonnes of salmon and generates more than £197 million for Scotland every year."

Patten outlined his members' concerns in a response to the Scottish government, which is revising its Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture. He said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to justify their existing investment and to encourage the future investment we need for Scotland to meet demand." Scotland is the third-largest salmon producer in the world, with a global market share of 10%.

Michael Stark, managing director of Lerwick-based Hjaltland Seafarms, supported Patten's call for a more level playing field. "The Scottish salmon farming industry is the most heavily legislated in the world, which is not helpful when you are competing against Norway, Chile, Canada and the Far East," he said.

Sid Patten added: "For example, we are restricted to effectively only two medicines for the treatment of sea lice, and fish are now beginning to show a resistance to them. If something is not done about getting access to new and more effective medicines, we could find ourselves in a very difficult situation."