SALMON farmer Marine Harvest has seen a dramatic increase in profitability at its operations in Scotland amid strong demand for the fish.

The Norwegian giant said underlying earnings per kilogram of Scottish fish sold increased to €3 euros (£2.52) in the first quarter from €0.65 in the same period last year.

The company harvested 18,000 tonnes of fish in Scotland, compared with 13,000 tonnes last time.

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It operates 49 sea farms off the west-coast of Scotland in addition to a processing plant in Fort William.

Marine Harvest, which also has operations in Norway and the Americas, increased first quarter group earnings before interest and tax by 92 per cent, to €215 million euros from € 112m.

Group harvest volumes fell to 84,000 tonnes from 97,000. Scotland was the only area to record an increase.

Announcing fourth quarter results in February Marine Harvest said it benefited from record prices in the period, driven by strong demand and a decline in global supply. The company highlighted the strength of demand in the UK and Germany.

It said the fall in the pound following the Brexit vote in June should have positive market effects for Marine Harvest Scotland,. The change has made UK products more attractive to overseas buyers.

The company added that it expected costs to decrease in Scotland in 2017 based on the performance of fish at the sites to be harvested.

Prior biological challenges had contributed to a high cost level for salmon of Scottish origin in the fourth quarter. But expanded use of mechanical lice mitigation tools, such as flushers, had helped improve the health situation.