Carried out at the beginning of February, by independent pollsters Ipsos Scotland, it sought the views of adults in Argyll and Bute, north-west Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
Residents of these coastal communities said that salmon farms provide jobs for local people, help to improve the local economy, and provide a high-quality product that Scotland can be proud of – potentially alleviating concerns over the sector’s social licence to operate.
The research revealed that 54 per cent of those with at least some knowledge of the sector were “favourable” towards it – well over twice the number who were unfavourable (23 per cent). Four in five (83 per cent) said they knew at least a little about the sector, including 42 per cent who said they knew a great deal or a fair amount. The survey also found that 53 per cent supported salmon farms being located in their local area, and just 17 per cent opposed this.
Salmon Scotland notes that its farms support around 10,000 jobs in Scotland, and overseas sales of salmon exceeded £600 million last year, reaffirming its place as the UK’s largest food export.
The sector has also adopted a sustainability charter to ensure that Scottish salmon is world-leading in the provision of healthy, tasty, nutritious food, produced in the most responsible and sustainable way. But there are 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.
Recently, Professor Russel Griggs 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.
Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said in press release: “This poll shows that most people living near salmon farms in rural Scotland are supportive of salmon farming and appreciate the jobs this provides.
“We conducted this independent research among our neighbours, as it’s important that we listen to local communities, and this confirms that local people are supportive of salmon farming.
“Salmon farmers work hard to earn and keep the trust of the local communities they live and work in. I’m confident that the farm-raised salmon sector will continue to grow responsibly and sustainably in the regions we operate in in Scotland, providing vital jobs for the local economy.”