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Tuesday, April 14, 1998 Published at 05:04 GMT 06:04 UK


Salmon farming jobs fear
image: [ Salmon farmers are anxious about the future of their industry ]
Salmon farmers are anxious about the future of their industry

There are fears for more than 700 jobs across Scotland as the future of the country's largest salmon farming company hangs in the balance.

It is believed that the owners of Marine Harvest McConnell, one of the biggest players in Scottish salmon farming, have decided to sell the firm following heavy losses.

With dozens of fish farms and processing plants in the Highlands and Islands the uncertainty is causing serious concern.

Over the last two decades salmon farming has grown, with the help of government subsidies, to become one of the key industries in the remoter parts of Scotland. As it has developed, ownership has become concentrated in fewer hands.

[ image: Charles Kennedy]
Charles Kennedy
If Marine Harvest McConnell does sell its 55 sites, the effects on the industry could be dramatic.

Charles Kennedy, the MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, said: "First of all if these farms or sites went up for sale you are talking about over 700 jobs across the Highlands and Islands.

"And secondly the only likely buyer on the international scene are the Norwegians. Where does that leave control of Scottish fish farming into the future?"

Scotland's fish farmers have been fighting running battles with their Norwegian counterparts for years over price levels in Europe.

[ image: Salmon farming provides vital jobs in remoter parts of Scotland]
Salmon farming provides vital jobs in remoter parts of Scotland
If Marine Harvest is sold off in one piece, a Norwegian buyer may well want to make a bid.

That would leave Norway with a virtual monopoly of production in Europe and consequent control over prices.

It would be very bad news for the few dozen small independent salmon farmers which still remain in business in Scotland.

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