Salmon Farming

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

That is a very important and relevant question. I am not trying to dodge it, but the primary issue is what the impacts are. One needs to establish those first, evidentially.

Many members have referred to the fact that the issue is multifactorial—I think that Stewart Stevenson referred to that. I believe that there are 12 factors, at least, that can contribute to the mortality of wild salmon. That needs to be considered first, and then the appropriate action should be taken. Whether that should be done on a voluntary or a compulsory basis falls to be considered sequentially at that stage.

I do not want members in any way to gain the impression that we wish to delay action or seek to interpret what I am saying in that way. I am saying quite the opposite, but the approach must be evidence based, orderly, thoughtful and considered. In the interim, we will take steps to ensure that environmental monitoring takes place. We will be able to do that ad interim without waiting for the outcomes from the various groups that we have set up.

I welcome the fact that many members have recognised that the setting up of those groups is a serious piece of work. It is a serious way in which to address the concerns—actually, it is the only way in which to address them. Few—if any—of us are experts, so we must reach out to those who have the experience and knowledge, gain the benefit of their work, which is provided pro bono in most cases, thank them and appreciate and value their work. We will take that approach.

We have touched on the importance of the sector to rural Scotland, and I cannot emphasise enough the reach and significance of the investments that are being made. In my constituency, Gael Force Group is investing £914,000 to develop new fish farming pens. The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre has overseen 14 projects worth £11.4 million, £7 million of which the industry has contributed. Substantial sums of money are being deployed in seeking solutions to the problems that we have discussed.