The aquaculture industry contributes to the long-term viability of many communities, according to a new report commissioned by Marine Scotland, which finds that the sector provides year-round, well-paid jobs and supports economic growth in rural, coastal and island areas.
The ekosgen report, completed in January 2020 but its publication delayed due to Covid-19, states that UK aquaculture – the majority of which is located in Scotland – also supports a wider and more geographically dispersed supply chain including processing, distribution, feed supply and export.
“This report highlights once again just how significant aquaculture is to Scotland’s rural economy and the viability of our island and coastal communities. The level of annual earnings for employees in these remote and island locations is significant and often not readily available from other jobs in these locations,” said Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.
“Having a skilled and flexible workforce will be a key factor in the future success of Scottish aquaculture. That’s why we continue to work with our partners to promote skills development and to encourage new entrants to consider this crucial sector as a viable career path. Given the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic the Scottish Government will continue to work to preserve the future of Scotland’s aquaculture sector and the social fabric of our remote and rural communities.”
The Supporting the Economic, Social and Environmental Sustainability of the UK’s Marine Sectors report – produced by economic and social research group ekosgen – also highlights key challenges.
These include employers recruiting and retaining the skills they need in areas such as engineering, science, fish husbandry, fish health, feeding and biology.
“Salmon farming is crucial to the viability of some of our most remote communities as this report makes clear.
“If we want these communities to continue to thrive then we need to ensure conditions are as favourable as possible which means having the right skills, infrastructure and regulatory regime,” said Julie Hesketh-Laird, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation.
The latest statistics on the size of the aquaculture sector in Scotland are due to be published in October, but Scotland currently accounts for around two-thirds of the UK’s total employment in the aquaculture sector. There were 2240 people directly employed by the aquaculture sector in Scotland in 2017 according to the publication Marine Economic Statistics.
The ekosgen report identified attracting employees as one of the challenges, linked to limited infrastructure and lack of access to local services and amenities. Employers in Ullapool and on the Isle of Rum have tackled this by developing their own housing in partnership with local communities.