THE aquaculture production industry in Scotland could create more than 400 jobs by the end of the decade if targets are hit, according to a report.

Researchers said that when adding in supply chain activities the number of posts supported by the industry is expected to rise from the 4500 recorded in 2012 to close to 8000 by 2020.

The study, commissioned by Marine Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), estimated turnover from total activities in the sector would increase from £820 million to in excess of £1.1 billion if an industry target to produce 223,000 of fish and shellfish is reached over the next six years. It further suggested the wider benefit to the Scottish economy from the industry by 2020 would be in the region of £2 billion and around 10,000 jobs.

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The document, An Assessment of the Benefits to Scotland of Aquaculture, emphasised that employment stretches from remote and economically fragile areas in the Highlands and islands into cities and the central belt. The quality of Scottish fish products was hailed as key to growing the industry both in the domestic market and for export.

While the salmon industry has a number of large multi-national corporations involved in it, the report pointed out the difficulties smaller operators across aquaculture can have in accessing finance to grow.

Charlotte Wright, HIE's director of business and sector development, said: "We welcome this report which highlights that the economic benefits [of aquaculture] not only impact on some of the most remote areas of Scotland, but are felt across the country."