Dismay at Scottish Government’s continuing refusal to address the serious environmental issues associated with Scotland’s salmon farming industry


NGOs and community groups condemn Scottish Government’s delay in tackling salmon farming’s environmental issues following its announcement of a further two-year “review” of regulation and demand immediate implementation, without any further prevarication, of the recommendations of the 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into salmon farming. 

28 NGOs and community groups have written to Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon expressing deep dismay at Scottish Government’s continuing refusal to address the serious environmental issues associated with Scotland’s salmon farming industry.

In early August the Cabinet Secretary announced a two year “review” of salmon farming regulation, thus delaying any significant tightening of regulation until late 2023 at the earliest. The letter condemns this review as “kicking the can, not only further down the road, but almost completely out of sight”.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland (S&TCS), said: “The review looks like little more than a cynical move to consign the robust recommendations of Scottish Parliament’s 2018 Inquiry into salmon farming to history.”

The Inquiry in 2018, carried out by two all-party Committees, concluded with a comprehensive report advocating that “urgent and meaningful action needs to be taken to address regulatory deficiencies as well as fish health and environmental issues before the industry can expand” and underlining that “the status quo is not an option”.

Since the 2018 Inquiry, there has been no tangible progress in terms of outcomes in the water on any of the big three issues, clearly identified by the Committees, of waste, sea lice and mortality. Yet in the meantime Scottish Government has blatantly ignored the Committees’ stipulation – that any expansion of the industry should only follow solutions to the industry’s many environmental problems – by sanctioning permissions for more than 50,000 tonnes of additional salmon farm capacity.

Photo: Corin Smith
Photo: Corin Smith

The letter also –

  • highlights that Scottish Government is now reneging on the formal commitment made in January 2019 by former Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing in response to the Inquiry “to make tangible early progress”
  • refutes the current Cabinet Secretary’s contention that open net salmon farming can be “an essential component of Scotland’s green recovery”
  • challenges the mantra that salmon farming is a low carbon industry
  • emphasises that the Cabinet Secretary’s goal of “sustainable” open net salmon farming has not been achieved anywhere in the world and that, consequently, many other jurisdictions are now curtailing the industry or even banning it outright.

John Aitchison of the Coastal Communities Network said: “The premise that salmon farming as currently practised in Scotland is ‘sustainable’ is fundamentally flawed. Salmon farms that keep large numbers of fish in open nets can never be environmentally sustainable. These farms are already doing serious harm and it is irresponsible to double their overall impacts without fully assessing them first, but the planning system is set up to give consent to nearly all salmon farm proposals. As a result, many new farms are being imposed on local communities against their will.”

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor to Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, added: “It does appear that the Scottish Government is now extending even further the window of opportunity for the salmon farming industry to expand, perhaps achieving its ambition of doubling in size, before any substantive change to regulation is brought into effect. This is being done at the expense of the Scottish marine environment.”

A pdf of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary, co-signed by 28 NGOs and community groups, is viewable here

For all enquries, please contact director Andrew Graham-Stewart on T: 01863 766767 M: 07812 981531 or email director@salmon-troutscotland.org