The Scottish Government will today take another step towards reforming aquaculture regulation, with the inaugural meeting of a new strategic advisory group for the sector.

The Scottish Aquaculture Council, which meets for the first time today, brings together senior representatives from key organisations with interests in the industry and its environmental and community impacts.

The Scottish Government said the Council will offer views and advice to assist ministers in delivering commitments and to help ensure that the aquaculture industry is supported, innovative and achieves its full potential while operating within environmental limits.

Members will also provide views to help inform the development of the government’s new vision for sustainable aquaculture, which will be published by the end of the year. Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has pledged to ensure that reforms to the regulatory regime, following a highly critical report from a working group chaired by Professor Russel Griggs and published in February of this year, will not be held up.

Mairi Gougeon will chair the Council, which includes representatives from the industry – the trade body Salmon Scotland plus two from fish farming businesses – as well as from the seaweed and shellfish sectors, government agencies and environmental organisations.

Although the Council includes a representative from Scottish Environment LINK, the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, and the Marine Conservation Society, which campaigns for sustainable use of the sea’s resources, some of the aquaculture industry’s fiercest critics are notable for their absence.

Dr Clare Cavers is Scottish Environment LINK representative and Senior Projects Manager with Fidra, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns to cut marine plastic pollution. She said: “LINK is looking forward to engaging with this group – we feel it is essential that Scotland’s aquaculture industry achieve true environmental sustainability and to do so it is critical that the process supports and delivers meaningful, transformative change in the industry. This is a once in a generation opportunity to shape the industry to achieve that goal within the constraints of the interlinked climate emergency and nature crisis.”

Mairi Gougeon said: “Aquaculture is a significant employer in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities and its wider UK and global supply chain. It provides well paid jobs and produces healthy, quality food that is enjoyed worldwide.

“The sector can only truly be a sustainable success story if we work together to address and mitigate any impacts on the natural environment, whilst providing positive outcomes for Scotland’s communities.

“The Scottish Aquaculture Council will help ensure that Scotland’s aquaculture industry is diverse, competitive and economically viable – achieving its full potential and protecting a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.”

Salmon Scotland has welcomed the creation of the Council and the Scottish Government’s commitment to reforms. Tavish Scott, Chief Executive at Salmon Scotland, said: “Professor Griggs published his review in February, which sets out a detailed route map to better regulation that works for salmon farmers, local communities, government and society.

“The task of the ministerial-led meeting is to deliver that new framework and do so within 12 months as Professor Griggs recommends.

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