The Open Farm initiative would have given more people the chance to see salmon farmers at work. File photo: Scottish Sea Farms.

Salmon farming's open door closed by coronavirus

Scotland’s salmon farmers have been forced to postpone ground-breaking plans to open their doors to the public in May because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Under the Open Farm initiative planned by the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), the sector intended to open 16 farms across the Highlands and Islands, providing a total of 64 tours in May to show local people, media and politicians how Scottish salmon is grown and looked after.

The ‘discovery days’ would have offered guests the chance to get out on a farm, watch the salmon in the cages, talk to the farmers and learn more about how the product reaches supermarkets and restaurants throughout the UK and across the world.

Hamich Macdonell: "We will bring it back again when the time is right."

Health and welfare

In a press release, SSPO strategic engagement director Hamish Macdonell said: “Our first priority now has to be protecting the health and welfare of everyone working on the farms so that they can continue supplying UK consumers with salmon. While it is disappointing to postpone this ground-breaking project, we will bring it back again when the time is right.

“The strategy behind the Open Farm month is to let people see for themselves how salmon is farmed, meet the farmers who are out on the lochs every day and learn how salmon farming has developed since the original idea 50 years ago.”

Highland Show

The SSPO had also planned to exhibit at the now-cancelled Royal Highland Show in the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) area. Over 20,000 children with teachers or parents visit the RHET area every year.  The SSPO plans included interactive exhibits, science projects, tastings and online educational worksheets for children in both primary and secondary schools.

Discussions are under way to re-schedule this for next year when the Royal Highland Show returns.

Macdonell said: “The SSPO priority now is to support the sector in maintaining supply of salmon to UK supermarkets and to ensure that we stay in daily contact with ministers in both the Scottish and UK governments, with regulators and other organisations while we deal with this most challenging situation.

“In due course, we will be able to focus again on showing all our stakeholders why this is a sector we are proud of but for now our actions in managing the supply of healthy food is the right and only thing to do.”