New SSPO boss calls for salmon farm regulatory reform amid “decidedly modest” growth

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“Why on earth do we have a system where a prospective salmon farmer has to apply for four different permissions, through four different government bodies?” asks Tavish Scott.

In an editorial penned in the Herald, the new boss of the trade body the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) writes that Scotland’s salmon farming regulatory system could be overhauled.

Compared to other salmon-producing nations, Scott highlighted that Scottish production costs are 28 per-cent higher than Norway and 36 per-cent higher than Chile.

He added that growth is “decidedly modest” compared to Scotland’s competitors. “In the 10 years to 2018, the Faroese salmon sector grew by 125 per-cent, the Australian by 104 per-cent and the Norwegians by 68 per-cent. That is why Scotland’s share of the global market is shrinking. Ten years ago, we had a 10 per-cent share of the global market: now, our share is 7 per-cent and it will drop further unless we address that,” he said.

Former Shetland MSP and Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott has jumped straight into the role since he was appointed in September. On Wednesday, with executives such as Mowi COO Farming Scotland, Ireland and the Faroes Ben Hadfield, Scott presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee following a 2018 report on salmon farming. The SSPO boss argued that it had the industry had taken steps on fish health and welfare, managing the environment, transparency and data, and on wild fish interactions.

The SSPO recently publicised its industry net zero emissions target for 2045.

In the editorial, Scott said that the principal way to address the question of growth would be by making the regulatory system “more efficient” and that the process “must be streamlined”.

“At the moment, it is cumbersome, bureaucratic and complicated. The controls and conditions we operate within were created when salmon farming was in its infancy,” he said.

“Why on earth do we have a system where a prospective salmon farmer has to apply for four different permissions, through four different government bodies? And then, each one of those bodies acts as a statutory consultee on each of the other licences. Not only that, but half the permissions are controlled by land-based regulations for a sea-based farm and none of them consider the climate change issues we face today. That is an extraordinary system and certainly not fit for purpose,” said Scott.