Scotland's salmon producers harvested more fish last year than every before. Photo: SSPO
Scotland's salmon producers harvested more fish last year than every before. Photo: SSPO

Scottish salmon production hits record high in 2017

The Scottish salmon industry harvested a record-high 189,707 tonnes last year, an increase of 26,890 tonnes (16.5%) on 2016, according to the newly-released Scottish Fish Farm Production Survey.


However, the survey by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) also revealed that this year’s production is expected to plummet to 150,774 tonnes, the lowest total since 2009.

Although the survey doesn’t include an explanation of why producers expect the total harvest volume to fall this year, previous guidance by Scotland’s biggest farmer, Marine Harvest, has indicated that in its own case this will be due to a combination of biological challenges and having fewer fish in the sea.  

Premium market position

Gilpin Bradley, chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), remained optimistic of the longer-term outlook. He said: “2017 was a successful year for Scottish salmon farmers. Volumes were strong and exports reached an all-time high with sales of £600m to more than 50 countries worldwide. This is testament to the hard work and commitment of so many dedicated salmon farmers in the Highlands and Islands and the global recognition of Scottish salmon’s enviable premium market position.

“Demand for quality Scottish salmon continues to outstrip supply and the sector aspires to grow to meet demand, but we also recognise the importance of steady, sustainable development. These new figures, alongside the investment in tackling emerging challenges give us great confidence in the sector’s ability for sustainable growth over the coming years.”

Other highlights of the survey are:

  • Total number of smolts produced in 2017 increased by 3,258,000 (6%) to 46.2 million.
  • The number of ova laid down to hatch increased by 2.2% to 65.7 million with the majority of these (90%) being derived from foreign sources. In 2017, 339,000 ova were exported.
  • The total number of staff employed in freshwater production during 2017 decreased by three from the 2016 figure with 291 persons employed, 250 full-time and 41 part-time.
  • Marine salmon production was undertaken by 12 businesses farming 226 active sites. This is a decrease of three business and 27 active site compared with 2016.
  • Total staff in marine salmon production decreased by 55 to 1,431. Full-time staff decreased by 17 to 1,362 and part-time staff decreased by 38 to 69.
  • Rainbow trout production was carried out by 23 businesses operating 44 active sites. Total production decreased by 459 tonnes (6%) to 7,637 tonnes.
  • The number of trout ova laid down to hatch decreased by 2,893,000 (29%) to 7,041,000. The proportion of ova from GB broodstock increased to 8.1% of the total sourced. The number of fish imported to Scotland from outwith GB was 486,000, a decrease of 106,000.
  • The number of staff employed in 2017 increased by 11 to 132 persons. Productivity, measured as tonnes produced per person, decreased by 13.5% to 57.9.
  • There has been a continued interest in the diversification of aquaculture. In 2017, brown/sea trout production increased by 20 tonnes to 61 tonnes. There was also production of halibut during 2017 but this figure cannot be shown without revealing the production of an individual business.
  • In 2017, lumpsucker and various species of wrasse were cultured for use as a biological control for parasites in the marine Atlantic salmon industry, with 925,000 lumpsuckers and 58,000 wrasse produced and 1.3 million and 2.9 million ova being laid down to hatch respectively.

The MSS survey can be found here.

Read more on the survey, plus information about production and profits in Norway, Chile and Canada, in November’s issue of Fish Farming Expert magazine.