CONTROVERSIAL plans to impose heavy on-the-spot fines on Scotland’s salmon farmers for minor breaches of rules could lead to nearly 1,000 job losses and lose the sector £100 million, industry leaders have warned.
The Scottish Government wants to impose “draconian” fines of up to £10,000 on salmon farmers who flout regulations such as failing to keeping records or allowing small numbers of fish to escape, according to critics of the proposals.
Scottish celebrity chef Nick Nairn, who was regular on the BBC TV show Ready Steady Cook, told The Scotsman the legalisation needed to be “looked at very closely” to avoid any risk of damaging salmon farming.
The industry employs 2,300 people in Scotland and is worth £500m to the Scottish economy, with the bulk of the sector based in the Highland and Islands area, Argyll, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
However, industry leaders have warned that salmon farming firms could pull out of Scotland and take large chunks of their business to nations such as Norway and Canada, which have much less strict regulations than those proposed in the aquaculture and fisheries bill being introduced in an attempt to protect wild species.
Stirling-born Nairn, author of Nick Nairn’s Top 100 Salmon Recipes, called on ministers to reconsider the plans, which could be in force by spring next year.
He said: “It’s crucially important that we support salmon farmers and that we value the incredible contribution they make to the economy of the country.
“I wouldn’t like to see anything that adversely affects the industry, as salmon farming has come a long way in Scotland during recent years and has continued to support jobs.
“The proposed legislation needs to be looked at very closely so that it doesn’t hamper or penalise the industry unnecessarily. We mustn’t over legislate for an industry that farms so much that is exported overseas and is such a success story.”
Scott Lansburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producer’s Organisation, warned that the bill would put a £110m expansion of the sector at risk due to an increased financial burden on firms through the heavy fines.
He said: “There could be draconian fines of up to £10,000 for minor non-compliance such as for not maintaining proper records. This could be a training record that’s not been kept up to date. There’s already a legal obligation to report lost fish, but under these new rules if an individual forgot to notify the government of this within 48 hours then they could be hit with one of these fines.”
However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “In terms of fixed penalties, these concerns appears to be misinformed. Any business operating legally with appropriate controls in place will have nothing to fear from any new arrangements.”