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A roadmap for growth in the Scottish aquaculture sector published today has identified several urgent innovation needs that it says should be treated as a priority.

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The report, titled “Scottish aquaculture: a view towards 2030”, was released at the first meeting of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG) in Inverness, attended by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

Issues described in the report as being of the highest priority for the sector included: markets/price - monitoring volume vs value to ensure stable growth; disease - sea lice plus general health risks/costs; international competition and balance of volume and value; licencing & regulation; increased capacity and streamlining.

The report follows a six-month scoping study, commissioned by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and conducted by independent consultants Imani Development in partnership with marine consultancy SRSL.

Using desk research, data from two key industry events and targeted interviews with industry leaders and regulators, the report sets out the needs of the sector according to urgency and impact, and recommends a pathway of actions through to 2030.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Stewart Graham, managing director of Gael Force Group and co-chair of the AILG, said: “I welcome this work which is complementary and supportive of the industry strategy set out in ‘Aquaculture Growth to 2030’. With a focus on innovation, it captures the current state of the industry, supports the strategic priorities to 2030 and outlines how to achieve them through innovative R&D. The resulting roadmap gives a clear and unified picture of what’s needed and by when.”

Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, added: “Several of the issues highlighted by the report as being urgent and high-impact, such as disease, feed, licensing and regulation, and spat availability closely mirror SAIC’s own priority innovation areas which were identified by the industry during our initial engagement with the sector. We look forward to collaborating with existing and new partners alike on additional innovative R&D in these areas, and playing a core role in helping the industry achieve its growth ambitions.”

The AILG, which will meet quarterly, is co-chaired by Jim Gallagher, managing director of Scottish Sea Farms, and Stewart Graham, managing director of Gael Force Group.

At today's inaugural meeting, AILG members examined opportunities to help sustain growth, particularly in rural and coastal areas, boost long-term employment and foster industry growth. It focused on subjects ranging from marketing to regulation, skills, innovation and industry financing.

Fergus Ewing commented: “The industry deserves credit for taking the initiative to establish this group. It marks an important step for the future of Scotland’s aquaculture industry and I look forward to working with all parties towards the goal of creating continued sustainable growth across this key industry.

“I am confident that the group can become an engine of expertise, supporting and mentoring emerging ideas and setting a strategic framework for achieving the aspirations of the 2030 Vision through balanced and stable growth.”

A full version of the “Scottish aquaculture: a view towards 2030” report is available at scottishaquaculture.com.

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