Scotland's $2 Billion Salmon Industry Is Thriving — But At What Cost?

The growth of the country's farmed salmon sector has reached such a critical point that, if not addressed, may cause "irrecoverable damage to the environment," a government report says.
A worker heads out to hand-feed fish at a Scottish salmon farm, a method that is unusual among fish farms. Source: Eileen Guo for NPR

When you think of Scottish food, your first thought might be haggis, but the country's No. 1 food export is actually farmed Atlantic salmon.

Last year, almost $786 million worth of Scottish salmon was exported globally, with the United States as its largest market. The aquaculture industry, which already contributes $2.85 billion to the U.K. economy, has ambitious targets for growth. The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organization, the main industry group, aims to more than double production to as much as 400,000 tons by 2030.

That growth, however, comes with high costs for Scotland's environment.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a , which echoes the concerns of by the Scottish Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, found that the country's farmed salmon sector is reaching a critical point in which "the status quo is not an option."

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