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Aquaculture Marine Science


New Study Highlights Importance of Salmon Farming

New study highlights importance of salmon farming to rural areas

A study commissioned by Scottish Sea Farms and undertaken by independent economic and development consultants Imani Development provides a new measure of the importance of salmon farming to rural populations.

Unlike previous research which tends to focus on sector-wide estimates, the study provides a detailed case study of the value that Scottish Sea Farms has delivered to the remote communities of one specific region – Orkney – during its first 10 years of farming there.

This includes:

  • Creating skilled jobs – growing its local workforce from nine to 44 full-time jobs; a figure that will increase to 50 when the company’s eighth farm goes live in 2019
  • Offering a higher average salary (£37,215) than that for Scotland (£27,404) or Orkney (£26,260)
  • Paying an annual salary bill of £1.6m in 2017/18; up £1.46m on 2007/8 and generating vital additional disposable income for onward spend with local shops, businesses and services
  • Buying local – now spending an average of £1.2m annually across 74 local businesses and supporting as many as 250 indirect jobs across the supply chain.

In addition, the study shows that the salmon farmer has invested significantly in local skills and training, with 15 Orkney employees currently enrolled on Modern Apprenticeships and 508 training days undertaken by the team in 2017/8 alone – 118 of which were undertaken by Orkney College UHI.

This is part of a wider company commitment that recently saw Scottish Sea Farms accredited with Investors in People (IIP) Platinum status – the highest possible IIP status – along with the Investors in Young People Good Practice Award at Gold level and IIP Health and Wellbeing Good Practice Award.

Speaking at the launch of the study, Impact Summary 2018: Measuring 10 years of farming Orkney waters, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Salmon farming plays a vital role in many remote rural communities, like the Orkney Islands, where local economies are bolstered by the provision of well paid, highly skilled jobs, as well as the creation of a highly valuable and sought-after product. Last year’s export figures showed record numbers of £6 billion for Scotland’s food and drink sector. A significant proportion of that was thanks to the popularity of our farmed salmon in restaurants and homes across the world.

“During this, the Year of Young People, it’s particularly encouraging to see Scottish Sea Farms investing in the next generation of salmon farmers, as well as leading the way on good practice for the industry.”

Added Scottish Sea Farms’ Managing Director Jim Gallagher: “To those living on mainland Scotland, 50 jobs might not seem like a huge deal. However, for remote communities such as Eday, Rousay and Sanday that might only have a population of 150, each new job can make the difference between a local staying on the island or leaving, or new people being attracted onto the islands.”

One such ‘newcomer’ is Richard Darbyshire, Scottish Sea Farms’ Regional Production Manager for Orkney for the last 10 years. Originally from Bolton, a key part of his role is to ensure that the economic and social gains being made aren’t at the expense of the local environment.

Said Darbyshire: “We’re farmers first and foremost, and we know that growing healthy, premium quality fish relies on them being reared in healthy habitats. Equally, we live in the same communities as we farm, therefore it’s incredibly important to us on a personal level that we look after our local environments.”

Initiatives to-date include:

  • Investing £1.9m in rigid new netting to keep salmon securely in and local marine life out, resulting in no seal killings in over two years
  • Partnering the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews to explore the potential of a new acoustic deterrent device thought to ward off seals but outside of the normal hearing frequency of cetaceans such as porpoises
  • Ploughing over £14.6m into infrastructure and equipment, including camera-monitored feeding systems which can control portion size to as little as 50g, keeping fish well-fed while ensuring no feed is wasted.

The study also shows that the value of the company’s farming activities on Orkney by no means stop at the islands. Combined, Scottish Sea Farms’ Orkney farms now grow £38.1m worth of salmon that’s sold to over 24 countries world-wide and has an estimated value of £26.5m GVA to Scotland’s economy.