A new report by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Marine Scotland has cast doubt on the chances of achieving targets laid out in the industry's “aquaculture growth to 2030” report.
Said report states that “sustainably achievable projections for 2030 could be in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 metric tons per annum for finfish production, with a medium production figure of 350,000t of salmon”.
This, the new report – named “the value of aquaculture to Scotland” – would be approximately double the average 2014 and 2015 years harvest of 175,372t.
The older report also suggested that “in shellfish production there is potential to reach 21,000t of mussels per annum by 2030, and to significantly increase the value of oyster production”.
Some 21,000t of mussels would be a 133% increase on the average 2014/2015 production of 9,029t.
“Our analysis of the factors that would facilitate this 100% increase in production by 2030, together with our consideration of the challenges that would need to be overcome, however, suggested to us that a 50% increase in production across the aquaculture sector might be more likely,” authors of the new report warned.
“Indeed, relative to past trends during a period of strong market growth, a 50% increase might be considered a good achievement.”
The authors' analysis of employment, earnings and gross value added (GVA) of this potential 50% output growth by 2030, was as follows.
This scenario assumes an average of 1.5% rather than 2% labor productivity growth across the sector’s value chains (which is considered more likely if the output increase is smaller).
The report guides for roughly a 20% increase in employment, sector earnings and GVA.
The new report noted the main activities considered to be required if the sector is to be able to capitalize on its opportunities and overcome the challenges – or minimize their impacts.
These suggestions bear relation to those put forward by the industry in its strategic plan, and will involve companies, support organizations, public bodies, research and development institutions, and training providers working together with a focus on achieving the higher end of the sector’s sustainable growth potential.
One action and outcome will include success in ameliorating the effect of sea lice (and gill diseases) on salmon through a range of methods with continuing significant investment by the industry in solutions.
Obtaining robust site by site information that will enable biomass limits to be increased for certain existing and new sites without adversely affecting the environment.
Investment in onshore recirculation systems for producing and ongrowing smolts, shortening the time fish are required to spend in sea cages and giving significant annual increases in salmon production and productivity.
Success in identifying models for salmon production from sites further offshore that are cost-effective, with the trial sites proposed by the industry playing a part in this.
Securing loan finance for shellfish production growth.
Workforce development measures that provide the sector’s employees across the value chain with the skills they will require to work with new technologies and encourage sufficient numbers of people to enter the industry across the occupational spectrum.
UK and export market development that successfully capitalizes on Scottish provenance, maximizes value added in Scotland, and convinces the public of the health benefits of eating salmon and other farmed finfish and shellfish. The industry expects that strong output growth scenarios will entail a high proportion of increased sales being to export markets, with China and other rapidly growing countries offering particular opportunities.