10 September 2003

S2M-310 Aquaculture

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-310, in the name of Allan Wilson, on "A Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture".
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): In 1968, when I was a student, I spent a very happy summer working with the Tay Salmon Fisheries Board. It was already apparent then that wild salmon stocks were in severe decline—I have to say that that was not due to my inefficiency as a water bailiff; the decline was a long-term one. Therefore, it is no surprise that fish farming has had to replace wild stocks. In 150 years, we have come from a position where people who worked on farms on the estates pleaded to be fed salmon no more than three times a week. Of course, salmon is once again popularly available.
I will focus on what the Executive's strategic framework does not contain because, after all, it is perfectly possible to give a broad welcome to what it includes. I will focus in particular on the sustainability or otherwise of the feed stocks that are essential to the future of fin fish in our aquaculture industry.
The feed sustainability study that is dealt with in paragraphs 3.59 and 3.60 of the strategy document is almost a footnote and, as far as I can see, is not referred to under the objectives in appendix 3. I hope that the minister will be able to tell us that he is making progress on it.
Feed sustainability is an important area. I note that Papua New Guinea attempted to set up a fish-farming industry and failed because of problems with the food stock—there was not enough omega oil in the trout that they were breeding. It is important that we get feed sustainability right to keep our aquaculture industry on track.
I note that, in the ministerial working group on aquaculture, no one appears to represent that particular interest. I hope that those who were present have taken on board—
Allan Wilson: There was indeed a representative from the foodstuffs industry. I understand that a sea feeds report has been published and that its recommendations have been picked up by the Scottish aquaculture research forum.
Stewart Stevenson: I am grateful to the minister for that. It is not clear from the list of representatives who that person is, but I accept that that is the case and I welcome that.
Nonetheless, feed sustainability is an issue that goes beyond the aquaculture industry into the white-fish industry, which is certainly not represented directly on the ministerial working group. The main source of raw material for feed stock for the aquaculture industry is industrial fishing, not just in the North sea, but around the world—off the coast of South America, off the west coast of Africa and in the far east. The fact that the Danish industry takes 1.5 million tonnes of food that haddock, cod and other essential stocks in the North sea would otherwise have eaten is a matter of concern to the white-fish industry. I would like a greater emphasis on the industrial fishery as it affects not only aquaculture but the future of our white-fish industry in science and in the politics of Europe.
We have talked about Europe and we have heard references to Norway and the lifting of the controls over the import into the EU of Norwegian salmon. It is a great paradox that, although Norway is outside the EU, it has more influence on the decision-making process affecting our fishing industry than does Scotland, which is in the EU. It is time the minister told us how he plans to remedy the imbalance of power and delivery that is obvious to many of us.
The Crown Estate has been mentioned. Jamie Stone mentioned Tain and James VI. It is great that the benefit of shellfish farming is felt by the local community. We heard from George Lyon that the Crown Estate takes £15 million out of our industry each year. Some 1.3 per cent of that returns to Scotland. If only Tain's experience were replicated throughout Scotland.
The quality of the Scottish product is vital. We know that considerable work must be done to keep up that quality. Today, I lodged a motion on sourcing local products and I hope that there will be an opportunity to have a member's debate on that subject in the coming months. In the first two hours after I lodged the motion, 15 people signed it.
I ask the minister whether the Scottish Executive discriminates in favour of Scottish salmon in its procurement for its public industries, or do we buy salmon that has been caught in copper-coated nets that do not meet the standards that prevail in Scotland? It would be perfectly possible to do that.
Carrying capacity has been mentioned, most recently by Sarah Boyack. The carrying capacity of our lochs to hold the fish that we grow through aquaculture is important, but so is the carrying capacity of food-stock sources, and I ask the minister to raise the priority of research into that subject.

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