Seafood strategy

Affirms the importance of the seafood sector and sets out how we are supporting industry to contribute to achieving our blue economy aspirations.

2. Background

In 2019 (the most recent figures available), there were an estimated 14,092 people directly employed in the seafood sector, many in remote coastal and island communities. 95% of commercial fishing jobs are located in areas of Scotland that together are home to less than a third of the total population – including, for example, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar, and Orkney (Scotland's Marine Economic Statistics, 2019 and National Records of Scotland 2019 mid-year population estimates). Rural communities can suffer from infrastructure constraints, such as availability of housing, transport services and access to chilled storage, which are needed to successfully deliver local and regional food supply and in turn support economic output from seafood for these areas.

Fish and seafood is Scotland's primary food export. In 2021, Scottish exports of fish and seafood were valued at £1.0 billion (204 thousand tonnes) and accounted for 60% of total Scottish food exports (£1.7bn), and 63% of total UK fish and seafood exports (£1.6bn) (HMRC Regional Trade Statistics). UK exports of Atlantic salmon farmed in Scotland were worth £614 million in 2021 and made up 38% of total UK fish and seafood exports.

Seafood can have an important role in domestic food security and also economic security in terms of export value. The short-life Food Security and Supply Taskforce was established on 17 March 2022 to, "monitor, identify and respond to any potential disruption to food security and supply resulting from the impact of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine". This taskforce co-chaired with Scotland Food and Drink published its report on 23 June, and included a set of short, medium and longer-term recommendations that cover three key themes:

  • business and supply chain support
  • future national food security structures
  • reserved issues to be raised with the UK Government

We are looking at the delivery of those recommendations and updated information will become available as that process moves forward. The taskforce is intending to meet again twice more this year in a monitoring capacity. This will be to test in more detail – as necessary – issues that arise and also to monitor the delivery of the agreed recommendations.

It can be challenging to source accurate figures on the domestic consumption of landed, farmed or processed seafood, including the origin of this seafood, and this is why one of the recommendations for future work falling from this strategy is around exploring additional sources of data. Despite the lack of data in this area, we know that Scottish consumers (like UK consumers) consume too little fish. This is particularly true for oily fish, the intake of which is monitored by Food Standards Scotland as part of monitoring progress towards the Scottish Dietary Goals. We also know that Scottish consumption of seafood accounts for only a small fraction of the fish landed and farmed in Scotland, with most exported to the rest of the UK or overseas.

We reap a range of social and economic benefits in harvesting and processing seafood and must ensure that in doing so we are managing production in a way that is cognisant of the threat of marine biodiversity loss, and which allows us to meet our climate change responsibilities. We must consider marine spatial demands from sources such as offshore wind energy, the development of fisheries management measures required for the current Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network and the introduction of new Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs). As we refine and adjust our management approach for the future, we must ensure the shift to a method where we value and track our natural resources, and ensure that data which informs legislation and policy incorporates a natural capital accounting model.

Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: "Nature", where nature provides a flow of benefits to people and the economy, called natural capital. It helps demonstrate the interconnections between economic, societal and environmental challenges in a more holistic way.

Our Blue Economy Vision reinforced the message that it is Scotland's natural capital assets that will underpin the success of our economy and this is especially true for the seafood sector. The vision states that by 2045 Scotland's shared stewardship of our marine environment supports ecosystem health, improved livelihoods, economic prosperity, social inclusion and wellbeing. This is in line with the UK Marine Policy statement that a clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse marine environment meeting the long term needs of people and nature in coastal and island communities will support a successful and sustainable seafood sector.

We will also start the process of developing a new National Marine Plan, to address the global climate and nature crises by carefully managing increasing competition for space and resources in the marine environment.



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