Scotland’s salmon farming conundrum

Scotland’s salmon farming industry has been beset by controversy over its environmental impacts, with compliance lagging behind other sectors, and the environmental regulator, SEPA, under fire for a ‘light touch’ approach to enforcement. Can a new regulatory regime address MSPs’ concerns?

The Scottish aquaculture sector launched an ambitious new strategy in 2016 to double its value from £1.8bn to £3.6bn by 2030. The country was already the world’s third largest producer of salmon, but 170,000 tonnes per year was “not even close” to its full potential of 350,000 tonnes. The government backed the plan for a sector it considered a “real economic success story”. 

But the expansion never materialised. And rather than bask in commercial success, the focus has been on the industry’s environmental record. “There’s not many places I’ve regulated where we’ve had such controversy around a whole sector,” Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) tells ENDS. “It’s also a tricky and complex one to regulate. I spend more time on this than any other sector.” 

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