The ‘knowledge exchange’ programme follows a visit to Oslo and Bergen late last year by representatives of the Scottish sector, organised by the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG).
Details of the initiative were revealed in Scottish Sea Farms’ newsletter, The Source, by managing director Jim Gallagher, who co-chairs the AILG with Gael Force managing director Stewart Graham.
A working group has now been set up, involving the salmon sector and government agencies in Scotland and in Norway.
‘It will reflect on what was learned from the trip and how we can adapt and modify what we think is appropriate for farming in Scotland,’ said Gallagher, who was in Norway along with members of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Marine Scotland and Rural Economy Minister Fergus Ewing.
Norwegian farmers have a more ‘enabling’ environment in which to farm, with innovation sites to trial new ideas.
The AILG has in the past proposed similar facilities for Scotland to allow the industry to develop sustainably.
But the key to expansion, said Gallagher, is a robust regulatory framework that is efficient, proportionate and balanced.
‘Today it’s not. At the moment if you want a new farm in Scotland, it takes a minimum of three years.’
He said he was optimistic, however, that progress could be achieved if all stakeholders were better informed about the opportunities in salmon farming.
‘There is a drive from the minister to enhance aquaculture’s contribution in Scotland and he is trying to get a greater understanding of how to do that,’ said Gallagher.
On the discussion table are a possible Scottish version of Norway’s auction system, which recently saw NOK 6 billion (£500 million) invested in new licences, and new farming concepts such as Scottish Sea Farms’ planned ocean farm.
‘Salmon can help the post-Covid recovery with highly paid skilled jobs; we’ve recruited 34 more people since the start of the year, all in rural communities,’ Gallagher added.
‘But we need the regulatory framework to reflect the speed of change, the need for change and the need for food.’
The AILG, which was set up in 2016 with a vision of doubling the value of the Scottish salmon industry, is holding further talks with government advisers this month to discuss how aquaculture can aid Scotland’s economic recovery, according to The Source.
The latest issue of The Source can be read here