THE value of Atlantic Salmon to the Scottish economy has surpassed £1 billion for the first time, amid a surge in production and record export sales.

The annual Scottish Fish Farm Production Survey shows that production was at an all time high of 189,707 tonnes in 2017, up 37% from the previous year.

Brown trout production also increased year-on-year by 49%, from 41 tonnes to 61 tonnes.

Read more: Shocking images of parasite infested salmon sparks row over fish farming

However, Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing warned that continuing success was threatened by Brexit plans.

He said: “The fish farm industry forms an integral part of Scotland’s rural economy – creating jobs and providing capital in some of our most rural communities. So it’s very encouraging to see salmon production value on the increase yet again.

“Demand for Scottish seafood has also increased domestically in recent years and, through measures such as the establishment Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group, we are putting in place the conditions for a sustainable industry that can meet future projected market demands.

“This includes the publication of Scotland’s 10 Year Farmed Fish Health Framework which will ensure that fish health remains at the heart of sustainable production.

“However, this huge Scottish success story is directly threatened by the UK Government’s Brexit plans, which would remove Scotland from the world’s biggest single market, which is around eight times the size of the UK market alone.

“That poses a major threat to the continued growth and success of the Scottish aquaculture sector, risking jobs, investment and livelihoods, which is why we continue to press strongly for Scotland and the rest of the UK to remain in the European single market and customs union.”

Read more: Farmed salmon 'may contain chemical linked with development problems in children'

The official statistical bulletin, by Marine Scotland Science, also reports that the level of survival on salmon farms has improved to 79.1%, compared to 73.3% in 2016.

It comes after fishing campaigners warned last month that salmon farm parasites are having “devastating consequences” on Scotland’s wild salmon, and called for legislation to be introduced to protect the species. Shocking images from Loch Roag on the Isle of Lewis showed fish covered in hundreds of deadly sea lice.

Read more: 10 million salmon thrown away by fish farm industry in 2016

Gilpin Bradley, chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said international demand for iconic Scottish product was exceeding supply.

He said: "Volumes were strong and exports reached an all-time high with sales of £600 million to more than 50 countries worldwide.

This is testament to the hard work and commitment of so many dedicated salmon farmers in the Highlands and Islands and the global recognition of Scottish salmon’s enviable premium market position.

“Demand for quality Scottish salmon continues to outstrip supply and the sector aspires to grow to meet demand, but we also recognise the importance of steady, sustainable development.

These new figures, alongside the investment in tackling emerging challenges give us great confidence in the sector’s ability for sustainable growth over the coming years.”

Salmon farmers have invested more than £60m in new technologies and improved farming techniques, research projects and cleaner fish to remove naturally occurring sea lice which thrive in the warmer temperatures.

In addition, wider investments in the sector’s supply chain include a £105m investment at Kyleakin, Skye where a 170,000 tonne fish feed facility and visitor centre is planned for build in 2019.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) recently reported that employment in the salmon farming industry and the wider supply chain topped 10,000 full time equivalent jobs.

Charlotte Wright, chief executive of HIE, said: “These figures are good news for Scottish aquaculture and show the significant social contributions the industry makes to remote rural, island and coastal areas by supporting high-skilled jobs, diversifying and protecting communities.

"Salmon farming is a major contributor to the Highlands and Islands economy and brings additional business opportunities to the area. We have supported the aquaculture industry since its inception and as a vital sector which provides many jobs for rural communities.”