Scotland's marine economic statistics 2018

Statistics on the economic contributions of Scotland’s marine sectors in 2018. Includes a time series of Gross Value Added (GVA), turnover and employment for industrial categories defined as part of the marine sector.

4. Aquaculture

4.1 Introduction

Aquaculture is the breeding, growing and harvesting of plants and animals in water. It can take place in natural water bodies such as ponds, lakes, marshland or brackish water and the ocean. It can also be conducted in tanks, commonly found in fish hatcheries. Aquaculture production provides a range of seafood products:

Finfish – salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout and halibut

Shellfish – mussels, Pacific oysters, native oysters, queen scallops and king scallops

In 2018, Atlantic salmon accounted for around 95% of the aquaculture farm gate value, similar to previous years. This proportion may be affected by privacy issues, meaning that reporting values of other marine fin fish species discloses details of individual companies.  

In this section the economic contribution of aquaculture has been estimated using two main data sources: Marine Scotland Aquaculture survey statistics for 2018 and economic data collected to meet DCF requirements. This approach allows for more reliable estimates of economic activity than SABS figures, primarily because the aquaculture survey collects data for every production site registered as active during the survey year.  

The aquaculture survey statistics provide production and employment data, while the DCF survey provides financial data from a sample survey. These are combined to calculate GVA figures. It should be noted that the values reported here differ from the SABS values due to methodological differences and the use of different data sources.  

4.2 Key economic points

In 2018, aquaculture generated £238 million GVA: accounting for 0.17% of the overall Scottish economy and 6% of the marine economy GVA. The aquaculture industry provided employment for 2,238 people (headcount), contributing 0.08% of the total Scottish employment and 3% of the marine economy employment. 

4.3 Aquaculture trends

From 2017 to 2018, the GVA from aquaculture (adjusted to 2018 prices) decreased by 45% from £431 million to £238 million, while the longer term trend from 2009 to 2018 increased by 78% from £134 million. From 2009 to 2018, employment increased by 27%.  

2017 was an exceptional year for aquaculture with the highest ever production level recorded in Scotland and good prices. The figures for 2017 have been updated in this publication following the receipt of additional 2017 DCF survey returns alongside the 2018 returns. For more information on this see Annex B, section 17.6 page 68. In 2018, a lower volume was produced and this is reflected in the lower turnover and GVA. The production of the main aquaculture species, salmon, is a process that takes several years. One of the main producers of salmon in Scotland confirmed that 2017 was a production year and 2018 a stock raising year. This means that the production costs in both years would be similar, but output would be lower in 2018 as the majority of the salmon were immature. 

Table 6: Aquaculture - GVA, turnover, employment and GVA per head, 2009 to 2018 (2018 prices)
Year GVA Turnover Employment
GVA Per Worker
£M £M 000's £
2009 134 510 1.8 76,082
2010 171 645 1.9 88,630
2011 182 686 1.8 100,630
2012 164 620 1.9 86,364
2013 229 762 1.9 123,105
2014 265 795 2.1 123,856
2015 115 712 2.2 52,849
2016 225 830 2.3 98,692
2017 431 1,109 2.2 192,163
2018 238 921 2.2 106,551

In 2015, the aquaculture GVA dipped (see Figure 7) due to a combination of lower turnover and higher costs as a result of disease challenges. Since that low point, GVA from aquaculture grew strongly to reach a peak of £431 million in 2017, before decreasing to £238 million in 2018

Figure 7: Aquaculture GVA and employment, 2009 to 2018 (2018 prices)
Figure 7 - Chart showing trends from 2009 to 2018 in the aquaculture sector GVA and employment. GVA shown at 2018 prices.
Figure 8: Aquaculture - volume and value of aquaculture production in Scotland, 2000 to 2018 (2018 prices)
Figure 8 - Chart showing trends from 2000 to 2018 in volume and value of aquaculture production in Scotland. Value shown at 2018 prices

Total aquaculture production in Scotland in 2018 decreased to 170 thousand tonnes (see Table 24). The decrease in volume of production in 2018 and a cost similar to production in 2017, led to a decrease in GVA. Table 24 presents more detailed aquaculture data, including aquaculture breakdown by fin fish or shellfish. The GVA values are estimated using the volume and value of aquaculture in Figure 8. The chart shows the longer term trend in the aquaculture production. 

4.4 Aquaculture by geography

It is not possible to disaggregate aquaculture statistics to local authority levels as these become disclosive. In the Marine Scotland Aquaculture Production Survey Statistics Atlantic salmon and mussel production figures are presented by Scottish marine region[6] (SMR) as far as possible. However, even at SMR level some regions in Table 7 have to be merged to avoid disclosure.  

Atlantic salmon production value accounts for over 95% of all aquaculture, and so the salmon figures are reasonably representative of the economic distribution of aquaculture around Scotland. Table 7 shows the distribution of Atlantic salmon production around Scotland.  

Table 7: Atlantic salmon production distribution around Scotland, 2018
Scottish Marine Region or combination % of Scottish value 2018
Argyll and Clyde 24%
Orkney Islands 13%
Outer Hebrides 20%
Shetland Isles 23%
North Coast and West Highlands 20%

Mussel production mostly occurs in the Shetland Isles, accounting for three quarters of all Scottish production. Oyster production is largely split between the North Coast group and Argyll and Clyde. 

Table 25 and Table 26 present a time series of salmon and mussel production by region.  



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