Scotland Has A Thriving $2 Billion Salmon Industry – But At A Cost

Source: NPR/Eileen Guo

Photo: Rawpixel/Unsplash

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When you think of Scottish food, your first thought might be haggis, but the country’s No. 1 food export is actually farmed Atlantic salmon.

Last year, almost $786 million worth of Scottish salmon was exported globally, with the United States as its largest market. The aquaculture industry, which already contributes $2.85 billion to the U.K. economy, has ambitious targets for growth. The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organization, the main industry group, aims to more than double production to as much as 400,000 tons by 2030.

That growth, however, comes with high costs for Scotland’s environment.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a March government report, which echoes the concerns of environmental and community groups. The report, part of an ongoing inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, found that the country’s farmed salmon sector is reaching a critical point in which “the status quo is not an option.”

“If the current issues are not addressed,” the report says, plans for expansion “may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment.”

Not long ago, “Scottish salmon” referred to wild rather than farmed fish.

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