Aquaculture is a key contributor to Scotland’s rural economy. It provides employment and investment, and is estimated to generate economic activity in Scotland worth £1.86 billion every year, supporting 8,300 jobs. The Scottish Government recognizes that a sustainable aquaculture sector is a particularly resource and carbon efficient means of producing animal protein and also contributes to food security.
A Joint Ministerial Statement on aquaculture on Scotland, endorsed by both Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity and Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform was published in March. The policy statement sets out how the Scottish Government and its agencies will work constructively with the sector and others with a direct interest to operate a policy and regulatory framework that enables sustainable growth while maintaining the right balance across our economic, environmental and social responsibilities.
To strike the right balance between the benefits that continued growth of the aquaculture industry will provide, whilst managing the potential impacts on sea-lochs and other coastal waters, the Scottish Government will promote the following aims:
· low-impact production systems, building on progress made to date by industry, which manage fish health challenges and enable continued growth while protecting marine ecology.
· new approach by SEPA to identifying Depositional Zones, to support appropriate growth of the industry whilst achieving River Basin Management Plan targets.
· collaborative and constructive relationships between the aquaculture sector and its neighbours to support positive interactions amongst marine users.
As part of the effort to increase production in the country, the first set of policy guidelines for the commercial cultivation of seaweed in Scotland were also recently published. This development will create opportunities to grow Scotland’s seaweed industry by providing clarity over where seaweed may be grown, along with what kinds of developments will be approved.
The Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement also sets out the framework concerning the environmental impacts of seaweed farms, including the requirements to consider and mitigate adverse environmental impacts; ensure that only native species are cultivated; be sited away from sources of pollution, where growing for human consumption; and allow small-medium size farms to be located anywhere in Scotland, subject to agreement and appropriate local conditions.
“We are starting to see the growth in seaweed as a commercial product, used in a huge range of items including food, cosmetics and fertilizers,” stated Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing. “We know the west coast of Scotland is the perfect environment for seaweed cultivation and, although the industry is still in its infancy, indications suggest that there may be significant economic opportunities ready to be developed in this area.”
Dr. Michele Stanley FRSB, Centre Lead for Marine Biotechnology at the Scottish Association for Marine Science said: “Over the last couple of years we have seen a growing interest in the cultivation of seaweeds for a variety of uses. The publication of the Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement will start to give this industry, which is very much in its infancy, much needed guidance and clarity about setting up a seaweed farm.”
Read the Seaweed Cultivation Policy Statement