MARINE Harvest is to appear before the Rural Economy and Connectivity committee’s investigation into salmon farming.
The committee, which will be taking evidence from the industry, academics, regulators and conservation organisations, launches its inquiry tomorrow at the Scottish parliament.
First to give evidence will be Professor James Bron and Professor Herve Migaud of the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, and Professor Paul Tett, reader in Coastal Ecosystems, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).
Next week, the committee, convened by Conservative MSP Edward Mountain, will hear from Scottish Environment LINK, Salmon & Trout Conservation (the angling lobbyist which prompted the inquiry), Fisheries Management Scotland, and the Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board.
Regulatory bodies are to appear on April 18, and on April 25 it will be the turn of Scotland Food and Drink, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Marine Harvest will give evidence on May 2, followed a week later by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.
The REC committee’s investigation will be more wide ranging than that of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) committee, which yesterday published its conclusions of the industry’s environmental performance.
The environment committee heard from environmental groups, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, regulators and the Scottish Association for Marine Science – but not from any salmon farmers.
Its findings – including that ‘the status quo is not an option’ – will feed into the REC inquiry, whose remit is to consider the current state of the salmon industry in Scotland, identify opportunities for its future development and explore how the various fish health and environmental challenges it currently faces can be addressed.
The clerk of the ECCLR told Fish Update that no vote had been taken over the committee’s final report, which means there was agreement among the 12 MSPs.
One of them, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron, represents many fish farmers in his constituency.
Speaking for himself and not the committee, he later told Fish Update: ‘Representing the Highlands and Islands, I’m acutely aware of the vital role fish farming plays in the local economy and how it is a major employer in some of our most remote and fragile areas, from Lochaber to Lewis and Campbeltown to Lerwick.
‘The industry has my full support. I am sure it will take on board the concerns of the committee so that it adheres to the highest standards of environmental protection, and so that any expansion of salmon production is done in a sensitive and sustainable manner, in order that both fish farming and our natural environment can thrive together.’