A Holyrood committee has said it is “deeply concerned” about the environmental impact of the salmon farming industry in a damning new report.
MSPs on the Environment Committee concluded the status quo “is not an option” after holding an inquiry on the subject.
The committee said the expansion of the industry in Scotland was taking place without a full understanding of the environmental impacts and with inadequate regulation, and called for an urgent independent assessment of its sustainability in the future.
Production in the aquaculture industry is expected to increase from 163,000 tonnes in 2016 to 300,000 – 400,000 tonnes by 2030.
However, MSPs found there were significant gaps in knowledge, data, monitoring and research relating to the industry, and highlighted that the same environmental concerns exist as in 2002 despite its expansion.
The report warned the planned expansion would “place huge pressures on the environment”.
“If the current issues are not addressed, this expansion will be unsustainable and may cause irrecoverable damage to the environment,” it said.
“The committee is deeply concerned that the development and growth of the sector is taking place without a full understanding of the environmental impacts.
“The committee considers an independent assessment of the environmental sustainability of the predicted growth of the sector is necessary.”
The report was published in advance of a wider inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland being undertaken by the Rural Economy Committee.
Environment Committee convener Graeme Dey MSP said: “The sector has ambitious expansion targets but the committee is concerned as to how these can be achieved in an environmentally-sustainable way.
“The sector continues to grow and expand with little meaningful thought given to the impact this will have on the environment.
“The committee is supportive of aquaculture but expansion must be based on a precautionary approach and on resolving environmental problems. The status quo, in terms of approach and regulation, is not an option.”