Argyll’s salmon exports total £140m, as Lismore farm adds £1m hybrid boat

The new £1m hybrid feed barge, alongside hybrid service vessel Laurence Knight. ©ScottishSeaFarms

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Salmon exports from Argyll and Bute totalled £140million last year, directly supporting more than 500 local jobs, according to industry statistics.

The amount of Scottish salmon bought in the UK last year increased by 4,600 tonnes – while exports have returned to pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit levels.

The trade body Salmon Scotland’s economic report shows 63,300 tonnes of the farmed fish was sold in the UK during 2021, a rise of 7.8 per cent. The value of salmon sales also grew to £1.1 billion, up from £1.05 billion in 2020.

It means salmon remained the UK’s biggest food export, followed by bread and pastries, chocolate, cereals, and cheese.

The weight of salmon exported last year was 97,835 tonnes, four per cent higher than during 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. However, the value of the exports – £614 million – was one per cent lower than in 2019.

The EU market accounted for approximately two-thirds of Scottish salmon exports as part of the product’s sales to 50 countries around the world. Analysis by Salmon Scotland – formerly the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation – suggested strong sales recovery in markets such as France and the USA, as well as high growth in China and Singapore.

For the first time, a regional breakdown of the annual figures by Salmon Scotland shows that 22,500 tonnes were exported from Argyll and Bute in 2021, representing 23 per cent of the Scotland-wide share. The highest exporting region in 2021 was the North coast and West Highlands, which exported 25,700 tonnes worth £160m. The Outer Hebrides exported 18,800 tonnes worth £120m.

Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: ‘Exports returning to levels close to pre-pandemic in spite of the disastrous impact of Brexit don’t happen on their own. This is testament to our resilient and hard-working aquaculture sector.’

Meanwhile off the Isle of Lismore, a Scottish salmon farmer took delivery of its first battery powered feed barge, in an ongoing drive towards hybridising its operations.

Scottish Sea Farms said the new barge, now at work at Lismore West, will improve energy efficiency while also reducing environmental emissions.

Scottish Sea Farms’ regional director for the mainland, Innes Weir, said the barge represented a significant step forward in terms of cutting waste and saving costs.

‘With a hybrid system, the diesel generator can be run more efficiently but not as often. And because you’re relying on the batteries to supply 50 to 70 per cent of the power, you reduce wear and tear on the engine, and so make savings on maintenance and servicing.’

Fuel savings are estimated at between 20 and 45 per cent, with generator maintenance costs around 75 per cent lower over three years.

The 200-tonne, £1 million-plus barge was developed by Norwegian aquaculture supplier Scale AQ and built in Poland. It combines a fully recyclable 150kW lithium-ion hybrid battery system with a diesel engine powered generator.

Lismore West farm manager Alasdair MacAulay said day-to-day operations would become much easier, with all the barge functions, including the batteries (87 in total), fuel pumps and feeding system, controlled online.

‘Even if we can’t get out to the farm, we can see if the feed pipes are connected properly and haven’t been damaged by bad weather, so it’s really good for health and safety too.’

The company also recently acquired its first hybrid workboat, the Laurence Knight.