Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Tavish Scott, says significant progress has been made in delivering on the pledges contained 
in its first sustainability charter published last year

When we first brought everyone together, two years ago, taking over the ballroom at a central Edinburgh hotel, we had no idea where the process would lead us. Those first sessions were invigorating as stakeholders from across the aquaculture sector articulated the goals they wanted us to achieve and the future they wanted us to help create. Here we are, on the cusp of COP26 and two years on from those first get-togethers and it is extraordinary how much has been achieved – but also how much further we have to travel.

Those initial meetings started the process which resulted in the publication of Scottish salmon’s first sustainability charter, A Better Future For Us All, in November 2020. In the year since, the team at the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation has been working closely with our member companies to put those five main pledges and 41 actions into practice. That is because I was more convinced of one fact than any other – this was not going to be a a document to sit on the shelf and gather dust.
So many other sectors and industries were producing sustainability reports and making commitments about carbon reduction there was naturally a degree of cynicism out there.

But I was determined this was not going to greenwashing, our sustainability charter would be a living, breathing document to guide our progress for years to come. It would provide us with a road map, guiding our sector to a more sustainable and climate-friendly future. To make sure that was carried through, it was imperative that we acted and acted quickly on the pledges our sector had made.
That meant assigning each of the 41 pledges to a member of the SSPO team, making every staff member responsible for driving forward key actions in a number of different areas.

Those staff members, working with our member companies, have made amazing progress. Three actions have been fully completed in the first 12 months since the charter was launched and a further 25 are underway. Just 13 are still be started and those actions are all pencilled in to get underway in the next two years. At the heart of the charter was a commitment to become net zero by 2045 and many of the individual actions will drive the change necessary for us to hit that deadline.
For instance, one of our member companies, Scottish Sea Farms, has successfully trialled the use of hybrid feed barges.

These barges, which control and store feed for the marine pens, act as a base for the farm workers and all the activities on the farm, including oxygen supplies, water testing and fish monitoring. Built by Aqua Power Technologies, the hybrid system intelligently monitors power demand and seamlessly switches between generator power and battery power. In its first year, the project has saved 31,488 litres of diesel and 83,128kG of CO2 and been recognised with a Scottish Environment Business Good Practice Award. 

Housing is a major issue in the Highlands and Islands, particularly the lack of affordable accommodation for young families. Our members are working hard to overcome the housing challenges they face but, crucially, doing so in a way that improves sustainability of the housing stock. One company, Mowi, has pioneered a green housing project in the Inner Hebrides. A 12-unit affordable housing unit is being built on the Isle of Colonsay. This represents a £2.4 million investment by the salmon company in partnership with the Scottish Government Land Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Argyll and Bute Council.

Mowi has also built two new environmentally friendly houses for staff on the nearby island of Rum and the salmon company cleared and serviced two further plots which were then given over to the community. But long-term sustainability of salmon farming means being a good neighbour and a good custodian of the environment.
That is why Scotland’s salmon farmers have invested significant sums in a new conservation fund for wild salmon. Gravel beds near the top of the  Carloway river in the Outer Hebrides are going to be replenished at a cost of £9,000, while £10,000 is being spent analysing the health of river habitats in ten Highland rivers and £19,000 is being spent on sea trout habitats in the Dalvuie Burn near Oban.

All these projects are being financed by the Wild Salmonid Support Fund which was set up by Scotland’s salmon farmers to improve conditions for Scotland’s wild salmon stocks. But, alongside these small projects, £500,000 is being spent over three years on the West Coast Tracking Project, an initiative run by the Atlantic Salmon Trust to try to find out what is really happening to our wild salmon.

In total, £1.5 million is being spent by salmon farmers over five years on these collaborative projects, showing how important it is for all those with an interest in Scotland’s wild salmon stocks to work closely together. All these projects, from housing to energy conservation to wild salmon initiatives are great, but they represent just the start of our journey. Just as the sustainability charter was not a single event but the start of a process, so these individual actions, begun over the course of this last year, represent just the beginning.

It will take us years to get where we want to go but we are determined to keep up the pace we have started with. We are serious about sustainability but, more important than that, we are serious about sustainability for the long term. Our progress over the past year has convinced me of that – I hope it has convinced you of that too.

This article was brought to you in association with the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation