Gougeon, who was speaking on the first day of the Aquaculture UK trade fair and conference in Aviemore, will chair a Ministerial Aquaculture Strategy Forum as part of a plan to deliver recommendations made by Professor Russel Griggs in an aquaculture regulatory review commissioned by the Scottish Government.
Gougeon also announced the formation of a consenting task group to make rapid progress on streamlining the aquaculture consenting system.
This includes making a change to the marine licence validity period for finfish and shellfish farms from six to 25 years.
Gougeon said: “Aquaculture is a significant contributor to our rural economy, providing well paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities and will play a major role in our green recovery and transition to net zero.
“It makes a significant contribution to our national economy and provides a source of tasty, nutritious food that is enjoyed at home and abroad.
“Developing world-leading legislation for aquaculture is key to developing a sector that is both environmentally and economically sustainable, operating within environmental limits and with social licence, ensuring there is a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.”
Vision for aquaculture
The Ministerial Aquaculture Strategy Forum will advise on the development of the Scottish Government’s “Vision” for sustainable aquaculture.
The Vision, set to be published by the end of the year, will have enhanced emphasis on environmental protection and community benefit at its core.
The Scottish Science Advisory Council has been asked to consider the scientific recommendations of the Griggs review to ensure changes to the sector support its sustainable development and tackle environmental challenges.
Direction of travel
Tavish Scott, chief executive of industry body Salmon Scotland, said: “We are very pleased that the government recognises that the regulatory regime is not fit for purpose and that it must change.
“Mairi Gougeon’s personal commitment to chair a strategy forum is a very strong sign of her leadership on this, and government officials and regulators can be in no doubt as to the direction of travel.
“Professor Griggs recommended that a reformed regulatory framework should be delivered within 12 months and the strong message coming from Aviemore is that we must all work together to deliver this vision.
“The salmon sector in Scotland will work constructively with government and regulators to deliver efficient and effective outcomes across social, economic and environmental objectives, supporting thousands of rural jobs, generating millions of pounds for Scotland’s economy, and farming one of the most nutritious products that we can eat.”