Scotland is the third largest farmed salmon producer in the world, and by volume, Scottish salmon accounts for Heathrow Airport’s biggest export.
The United Kingdom has set aside C$8.6 million to fund 12 research projects as part of the national efforts to boost its sustainable aquaculture industry.
The UK Aquaculture Initiative is a joint project with Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to support high quality, innovative research and address strategic challenges facing UK aquaculture.
The projects announced this week, include studying genetics and breeding patterns, looking at how shellfish can be more sustainable, immunising trout against kidney disease, and examining how robust salmon are and how susceptible to disease they are at sea.
Karen Lewis, BBSRC executive director of Capability and Innovation (pictured), said: ‘Aquaculture is a key food production sector for the UK. These projects will improve our understanding of the challenges facing aquaculture production.
‘Working together with industry partners, UK researchers will help to address these challenges and contribute to developing a healthy, safe and sustainable aquaculture system which will deliver societal and economic benefit for the UK.’
Campbell Gunn a retired political editor who served as special adviser to two First Ministers of Scotland points out in an opinion piece published in The Press and Journal that fish farming has made salmon one of the cheapest and healthiest sources of protein available in Scotland.
The Scottish Government, he states, has already announced plans to double the economic contribution of the sector from £1.8 billion in 2016 to £3.6 billion by 2030.
They also plan to double the number of jobs in the industry to 18,000 by that date. These are jobs in remote parts of Scotland where well-paid employment is at a premium.
Last year, Scotland produced 160,000 of farmed salmon, and was the biggest food export from the UK. Indeed, after Norway and Chile, Scotland is the third largest salmon producer in the world, with around eight per cent of global salmon production, exporting £600 million worth of fish each year – 94,000 tonnes in 2017 – to 55 countries around the world. In fact, by volume, Scottish salmon accounts for Heathrow Airport’s biggest export.
“There are other benefits from the industry. On one or two of the smaller Hebridean islands, fish farming is what keeps the community alive, providing accommodation for workers and even ensuring the existence of a local school. The fish farms also have good boats, available if someone needs to be rushed to hospital on the mainland.”
“Salmon farms are going to be seen in many more parts of our coastline.
“Yes, the industry has problems which it will have to tackle, and the likelihood of even more regulation with which it will have to comply. But unless we want to return to the days – just a few decades ago – when fresh and smoked salmon were luxuries reserved for the wealthy, then salmon farming has to be supported and encouraged,” Gunn wrote.
Meanwhile in Australia, Queensland’s Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the industry is valued at $120 million, with the production of prawns making up the lion’s share of this figure, in her state.
Queensland was well placed to take advantage of the opportunities on offer, he said at the expansion of the Gold Coast Marine Aquaculture facility at Mossman.
“Overseas, aquaculture is rapidly overtaking the wild caught fishery in value,” Furner said.
“In 2016-17, more than 4,200 tonnes of prawns were produced in Queensland, with a value of nearly $78 Million and employing nearly 300 full time staff. In global terms, this is not very significant but given the wealth of resources at our doorstep, there are major opportunities for growth in this sector in Queensland.”
“A dynamic aquaculture sector has the added benefit of taking the pressure off our wild caught fisheries”
“Wild-caught product cannot keep up with growing global demand for seafood protein, which is why aquaculture is the fastest-growing food industry globally,” he said.