Ever-dwindling stock quotas and reduced days at sea have seen many skippers and crew hands turn their backs on the fishing industry and seek more secure forms of employment.

No part of the British isles has had it worse than Scotland, which is heavily reliant on fishing for its contribution to the wider economy. But there is some cause for optimism. The fish farming industry and, in particular, salmon farming is performing well at the moment thanks to the Chilean salmon farming industry's supply crisis.

The move towards a healthier lifestyle coupled with a perception that widescale fishing for wild salmon is ethically dubious has helped to fuel demand for fresh farmed fish, says Rosie Campbell-Preston, owner of Inverawe Smokehouses.

"As long as the farms are environmentally and ecologically sound, customers feel that sustainable farmed fish is the best option," she says. To meet this demand Inverawe Smokehouses has launched two selection boxes with an rsp of £42.50, "giving consumers the chance to try a variety of different fresh fish fillets".

Each box contains four types of fish, including sea bass, lemon sole, sea bream and halibut. However, some industry experts are voicing concerns that future growth could be limited unless support is forthcoming.

"We should be using Scottish water to grow both the shellfish and finfish industry," says David Attwood, Loch Fyne Oysters operations director and Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers committee member. "But in order to do that we need more support to carry out research and development work into ways of farming other fish and shellfish species and to examine the potential for the commercial growing and harvesting of seaweeds."

Scotland should follow New Zealand's example, where the government gets fully behind aquaculture and encourages diversification, which in turn fuels entrepreneurialism, he suggests. This is not yet happening on the same scale in Scotland. 

Focus On Scotland