Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, has presided at a long-overdue official opening for AquaGen Scotland’s hatchery at Holywood.

AquaGen acquired the Holywood Breeding Centre, near Dumfries, in March 2019 and the company has invested more than £5 million, rebuilding and repurposing the facility for salmon egg production. The revamp has provided eight skilled jobs for the area. The official reopening of the facility, however, was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Andrew Reeve, Managing Director of AquaGen Scotland said: “Covid-19 restrictions led us to put off this ceremony more than once, so we are very pleased to be able to celebrate our achievements today.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “Aquaculture and its wider supply chain is an essential component of Scotland’s economy, adding valuable jobs and contributing to the local economies in some of our most fragile and rural communities.

“We are working to continually improve the policy and regulatory framework to mitigate environmental impact and at the same time support sustainable growth, and I welcome plans by AquaGen to increase egg production for domestic and export markets.

“I am delighted to see this important part of the breeding sector develop in Scotland, which will support better biosecurity by providing a robust ova supply in Scotland, selected for their performance in the Scottish marine environment.”

She also noted that an estimated 75% of Scottish aquaculture supply chain spend is already in Scotland, and the centre would further help the country to reduce its reliance on ova imports.

The AquaGen strain has been developed since 1971 through scientific selection and breeding for the best performance in commercial fish farming.  The company said the Holywood Breeding Centre will enable it to provide a reliable supply of eggs from AquaGen broodstock.

Over the next three years, the company aims to increase production to 50 million eggs, which will be available for delivery all year round to domestic and export markets.

AquaGen works closely with two of Scotland’s largest salmon farming companies, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and Scottish Sea Farms.  Elite breeding populations are reared in their commercial locations on the west coast and in the Northern Isles.  The best performing stock are selected at sea and returned to Holywood for egg production.

Scottish Sea Farms Managing Director Jim Gallagher said: “The opening of the new Breeding Centre represents a key milestone for Scottish salmon farming. Not only will it bring together the best of nature and nurture, producing eggs from broodstock proven to have performed well in local marine conditions, but by being based in Scotland itself the Centre also offers farmers – and, in turn, customers – greater security over supply.”

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland Freshwater Director Paul Irving said the opening was “great news” for Scotland’s aquaculture sector and added: “The new facility will do even more to improve control, traceability and performance to enable our pre-smolts to thrive in our hatcheries and freshwater facilities throughout Scotland and the north of England, and progress to the cold, fast-moving waters of Orkney and Shetland.”

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