Scotland has long been a country in harmony with the seas and oceans. From oil and gas to fisheries, coastal tourism and more recently managed aquaculture Scotland’s blue economy is entwined with its unique culture, topography and ocean space.
In 2015, 96% of the UK aquaculture sector and all the UK salmon farming industry were located in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This industry provides a significant contribution to the economic and social fabric of the region, especially for people who live in very remote communities. The aquaculture industry contributes over £1.8Bn to the Scottish economy and accounts for a staggering 7% of global production.
This market share has declined from 10% in 2005, whilst global production is increasing such that the Scottish market share is not keeping pace with the rest of the world. Unless technology and improved processes can be exploited to increase production, Scotland could fall further behind as global production continues to grow at 5% year on year.
Such global value has become more markedly obvious to us as we have recently been undertaking fisheries exploration in the Philippines. Aquaculture accounts for over 50% of Philippine fisheries output, and was the one market sector that allowed the countries’ 2017 fisheries output statisticsto retain some buoyancy, as standard commercial and municipal fisheries both declined. Over 50% of the country’s animal protein consumption comes from fish, so aquaculture is hugely important in providing the most basic of nutrition to the citizens of a nation that does still register significant involuntary hunger problems.
Given all this, it will be no surprise to learn that, in line with our emerging work in the Philippines, we have been working with the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA) to explore the needs of aquaculture companies and fish farmers in the Highlands and Islands.
Early next month members of the NLA team along with their SoXSA and HIE partners, will be in Shetland to facilitate a workshop centred on connected aquaculture and the operational and commercial challenges facing mussel farmers as they seek to exploit innovative technologies to fuel the growth of Scotland’s fishing industry around the World. The workshop will be attended by technologists and aquaculture operators and will seek to describe a formal approach to testing innovations that will lead to a more efficient, effective and ultimately prosperous Scottish aquaculture industry.
We’ll keep you up to date on progress on this ambitious project via the NLA web site. Do please get in touch with us if you would like to bring to our attention any innovative aquaculture systems or approaches that may be of interest to our partners.