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Aquaculture overview

Aquaculture overview

Marine aquaculture is one of Scotland’s most important rural industries.

More than 8,000 people are employed in farming shellfish, salmon, trout and related industries, mostly in remote locations where other job opportunities are scarce.

Seaweed farming is an emerging sector in Scotland, which has the potential to become commercially significant in the future.

Our role

We provide leases for area of seabed which are used to:

  • farm finfish, such as salmon and trout
  • farm shellfish, such as mussels, scallops and oysters
  • farm seaweed

We also provide licences for seaweed harvesting on Crown foreshore and seabed. We only issue these licenses once NatureScot confirm they are satisfied that there is no evident risk of unacceptable environmental impacts.

We are not a regulator and will not issue a lease unless all other necessary statutory consents are in place.

How we contribute

As well as awarding and managing leases, we contribute to the success of aquaculture in Scotland through measures that include funding research projects and business and stakeholder development positions with industry organisations. We have also worked with the Scottish Government to create an online overview of the industry in Scotland.

We have also worked with the Scottish Government to create an online overview of the industry in Scotland.

Obtaining leases and licences

For details of how to obtain and operate an Aquaculture lease with us, please consult the following pages;

For details of how to obtain a seaweed harvesting licence, please visit seaweed harvesting and licencing.

Aquaculture review 2022

In 2022 we finalised our ‘root & branch’ review of aquaculture lease terms.

Details of changes will be included in the individual business resource pages – see below - but notable changes include:

  • an annual reporting requirement on management of marine plastics for all tenants, and on participation in collaborative management agreements for finfish tenants
  • all tenants will be required to submit an annual declaration of what equipment they have deployed on leased sites and confirm its secure installation and well-maintained condition
  • changes to the way rents are assessed and an option to renew for finfish leases
  • charges have been introduced for lease option agreements and these have also had the statutory consent deadlines extended by a year, providing a longer period for grantees to prepare applications for regulatory authorities

Natural capital markets and marine assets

Crown Estate Scotland is involved in discussions and projects relating to natural capital across all our assets and business workstreams, terrestrial and marine.

These include the development of assessment methodologies and their validation, markets and associated trading of credits relating to carbon, biodiversity and nutrients.

Progress in such markets is more advanced for land-based assets, with the development for example of the woodland, and peatland codes that provide clarity, assurance and independent validation for tradeable carbon credits from woodland creation and peatland restoration projects respectively. Similar work on terrestrial biodiversity credits is also well underway.

There is increasing interest in the potential for natural capital in the marine environment to realise similar tradeable credits for carbon and biodiversity. However this is not as advanced as that on land, and work has yet to be concluded that can provide the same assurance and validation for marine assets that the above codes do for terrestrial ones.

To avoid unhelpful speculation in such matters ahead of clear validated mechanisms for assured identification and valuation of tradeable credits based on marine natural capital becoming available, alongside evaluation of associated market value accruing to any business, Crown Estate Scotland will include a condition in all aquaculture leases to be issued from now on that prohibits trading in natural capital credits, including offsetting, on leased subjects (seabed/foreshore) without our prior written consent.

We encourage any tenants or prospective tenants with queries related to this to get in touch.