THE BOSS of the Scottish Salmon Company has said industry red tape makes a Scottish Government production target impossible to hit, as he declared a major push into the United States.

Craig Anderson, who runs the Oslo-listed business from Edinburgh, said the US was its main focus for exports, with projected sales this year set to top £8 million, up from just £1m in 2016.

And Mr Anderson hit out at Government targets for salmon volume, saying the system for applying for Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) licences to farm fish had to “radically” change, along with the bodies governing the industry.

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READ MORE: Ten million salmon thrown away by fish farm industry in last year alone

Scotland currently produces 160,000 tonnes of salmon annually and the Scottish Government has set a target for 350,000 tonnes of fish by 2030.

“Under the current regime of licence applications that is not going to be hit,” said Mr Anderson. “We as a salmon producing nation will miss that target by far, that’s just a fact.”

Mr Anderson said: “Currently it tales three years from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) and once you get your CAR licence you then have to go to the local authority to get planning [permission] to anchor your previously approved farm site to the seabed and if they refuse, that’s three years wasted.”

SEPA hit back, claiming a CAR licence typically takes six months to complete. “There are occasions when this process can take longer due to the complexity of an application. In some instances SEPA may require additional information in order to ensure that the environment is protected,” a spokesman said.

He added that planning permission can be applied for “before, during or after the CAR application submission”.

Mr Anderson noted that the Scottish Government had been “very supportive” of the salmon farming industry, but he called on the four bodies who regulate the industry to look at how they could work together to make the industry “fundamentally better”.

READ MORE: Ten million salmon thrown away by fish farm industry in last year alone

These bodies are Marine Scotland, Marine Scotland Science, Fish Health Inspectorate and SEPA. “Maybe the Government should look at those four bodies becoming one,” he added. “Fairness and straightforwardness would be good for the whole industry rather than mixed messages and clutter.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Fish and shellfish farming currently contributes £620 million to Scotland’s economy every year and supports more than 12,000 jobs. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the sector to grow in a sustainable way. 

“The ambition to increase the volume of salmon produce by 2030 was set out in an industry group report published in 2016. That report suggested sustainably achievable projections for 2030 could be in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes per annum for finfish production. 

“The Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group has been established to play a key role in driving implementation of the strategy, which included a number of recommendations on matters ranging from regulation and planning to innovation support."

Mr Anderson said the Scottish Salmon Company, which employs about 550 staff, would build on its total tonnage in 2018.

This expansion, along with the development of its Native Hebridean Salmon broodstock, will help facilitate growth.

In the first half of its financial year, the business boosted net operating revenue by a quarter, to £72m, after demand for Scottish salmon led to a 300 per cent spike in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) per kilogram.

“The UK is important, Europe is important but emerging markets, and ironically we see the US as an emerging market for salmon, are maturing in such a way that people are demanding the answers to fundamental questions – can you guarantee the provenance,” said Mr Anderson.

The company’s presence in the US, while in focus, has also been boosted by series of issues in Chile, including disease and earthquakes, which have impacted export volumes.

“We spent a lot of time and effort understanding the American market, what they understand about Scotland and Scottishness. In 2016 we sold about £1m into the US. In 2017, we’re looking to achieve about £8m. That’s a drastic increase,” he said.

READ MORE: Ten million salmon thrown away by fish farm industry in last year alone

Mr Anderson hopes that by 2020, 15 per cent of its total volume will be its Native Hebridean Salmon, a breed that can be traced back to a North Uist river. “We can’t stack it high and sell it cheap, so it’s about quality and differentiation,” he said. “We invested heavily in this. That 15 per cent is a massive step, because it’s a truly Scottish salmon. It is a cracking fish.”