Cooke: Brexit, or grow-out curbs, would cause Shetland “serious” harm

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Cooke Aquaculture Scotland sees dual threat to Scottish north, testimony to parliamentary salmon-industry investigation reveals

Cooke Aquaculture has told Scottish parliamentarians through a committee investigating salmon-farming in Scotland that both Brexit and new industry rule-making need to be handled carefully, or serious rural job losses will occur.

Cooke, with 14,950 tonnes of production in the Shetland Islands and another 3,179 in the Orkney Islands, has told the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that the livelihoods of people producing those volumes were at risk if negotiations with the EU resulted in tariffs or new salmon rules were overly restrictive. The evidence suggested Scotland’s northern archipelagos faced a dual risk.

“A scaling back or complete loss of the industry in the areas spoken about would have a seriously detrimental effect on the communities at all levels,” a Cooke statement said, adding that it would have been “irresponsible” not to have secured the transitional Brexit agreement that will keep laws and regulations in place going forward.

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In giving evidence, Cooke revealed the company’s nineteen farms in northern Scotland’s northernmost islands were hanging on as precariously as the local inhabitants. Shetland was seeing population flight, and the Orkneys had no broadband.

A single processor in the area processes all Cooke fish produced in Shetland, including its premium, high-latitude niche-market salmon. The Committee heard that Cooke — like the Scottish seafood industry at large — was concerned post-Brexit immigration constraints could impact that processor.

Read Status quo Brexit deal a “a relief”