CCN statement on Scottish Government’s Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture

The Scottish Government has officially presented its Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture, outlining environmental, economic, and social objectives for the sector.

The Coastal Communities Network (CCN) welcomes the publication of the Vision because it acknowledges the problems that beset finfish farming, despite it failing to acknowledge the lack of progress made towards solving them since two government reports into finfish farming in 2018.

In particular, CCN welcomes:

  • the reference to the five guiding principles for the environment, including the precautionary principle.
  • the attention drawn to shellfish and seaweed, but we regret the current imbalance of scale between the three aquaculture sectors.
  • the intention to introduce spatial planning and take account of cumulative risks and pressures.
  • the specific aims of minimising environmental damage and enhancing biodiversity.
  • the encouragement towards semi- and fully- closed containment in fish farms.

The Vision purports to support the development of sustainable aquaculture, but is not clear about what is meant by ‘sustainable’ in practical detail, nor whether the Scottish Government truly believes the industry in its current guise is sustainable. CCN retains fundamental reservations about whether an industry which sources wild-caught fish from the coastal waters of Africa and South America to feed carnivorous fish in order to provide salmon for Scottish people and the export trade can be conisdered sustainable.

The Cabinet Secretary has also said the Vision will put coastal communities at the heart of developments happening nearby, to ensure that they also “reap the benefits of these developments“. However, CCN believes that empowering communities with the right to refuse hosting finfish farms would have been a meaningful step towards this, and express regret that this aspect was not addressed in the Vision.

Overall, there are many laudable intentions in the Vision but it lacks clear targets and interim deadlines by which progress can be measured. Therefore it remains to be seen whether improvements will follow any more rapidly than they have in the past five years.