Salmon farmers have pledged to improve sustainability to ensure a “responsible” long-term future for salmon farming in Scotland.

In a major new blueprint for sustainability, farming bosses have set out their long-term vision for reducing the environmental impact on sea lochs and wild salmon - as well as laying out its key targets in fish health and welfare, community support and employment.

A Better Future For Us All, which encapsulates all aspects of farming life, features key environmental pledges, including a commitment to becoming net zero in greenhouse gas emissions before 2045 and being 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation says it intends to source 100 per cent of its fish feed ingredients from sustainable sources and there will be full traceability of all ingredients and wants to work towards having 100 per cent recyclable packaging.

It has also revealed plans to increase the provision of high quality affordable housing in remote communities in partnership with government and local authorities and other key partners, incorporating greener approaches wherever possible.

Tavish Scott, the incoming Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), hailed the document as “momentous” and “ground-breaking”.

READ MORE: Salmon farm creates 'serious threat' to life in a protected Scottish sea zone

He said: “We already have an incredibly good environmental story to tell with a low carbon footprint, low freshwater use and great feed conversion rates. But, by publishing this document today, we declare our commitment to go further and meet even more exacting standards in the years to come.”

Mr Scott added: “We lead the world in many aspects of farming salmon. We also enjoy a well-deserved global reputation for producing the world’s best salmon. But this document shows our commitment to stay out in front, evolving the way we farm to make sure our environmental and sustainability credentials remain the best in the world.”

Other commitments laid out by the charter include improving pen structures to prevent potential escapes, establishing a salmon experience visitor centre and innovation sites where new technology can be trialled.

The sector also aims to create clear career-development paths and focus on long-term skills and recruitment to provide more high-quality jobs in rural areas.

Atholl Duncan, Chair of the SSPO, said: “Scotland’s recovery from the Covid pandemic has to be green, it has to be sustainable and it has to be led by successful global brands. This new vision for the Scottish salmon sector reflects our commitment to meet all those requirements. We can help harness the potential of the blue economy to drive forward the green recovery that Scotland wants to see.”

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Mr Duncan added: “Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the first commercially harvested farmed salmon in Scotland. This vision will take us forward into the next 50 years.”

In a joint statement, Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism, and Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “We very much welcome and endorse this vision for the industry; it is bold, ambitious and promotes a sustainable aspiration towards supporting the local communities it serves. 

“The industry is a key employer in rural areas and with the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and threats from Brexit, we are pleased that the sector can continue to bring benefits to and nurture these fragile rural areas.

“The sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry is an important part of the Blue Economy model that we are driving forward; and we welcome the industry’s commitment to continued research and innovation which will enable sustainable growth while maintaining the right balance across Scotland’s economic, environmental and social responsibilities.”

In recent days the Scottish Wildlife Trust joined forces with a youth environmental conservation organisation opposing plans for a 12-cage salmon farm within the Wester ross Marine Protected Area.

They say the plans threaten to damage "fragile" marine habitats in a protected zone off the north-west coast of Scotland.

Meanwhile, Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland claimed fish are being found in appalling conditions on salmon farms in Argyll & Bute, Skye and the Outer Hebrides due to a growing sea lice parasite problem.

READ MORE: Scottish salmon found in ‘sickening’ conditions across Scotland as sea lice problem escalates

Local salmon producers say they were "devastated" when an algal bloom led to rising levels of sea lice, and that they take fish health and welfare very seriously.