In a move designed to prioritise both public safety and maintain important supplies of fresh food to the UK market, the SSPO has postponed a ground-breaking new public engagement initiative planned for this summer.
In line with many other organisations, the SSPO has now moved to postpone all events which would involve public access to farms and other salmon facilities, for the foreseeable future.
The overriding aim during this current crisis is to protect key workers from Coronavirus as much as possible, to prevent unnecessary movement of people around the country and to keep farms focusing on producing fish for the vital home market.
Under the SSPO’s planned Open Farm initiative, the Scottish salmon sector had planned to open 16 farms across the Highlands and Islands providing a total of 64 tours over one month to show local people, media and politicians exactly how Scottish salmon is grown and looked after.
The initiative was due to be run during the month of May this year.
The ‘discovery days’ would have offered guests the chance to get out on a farm, watch the fish, talk to the farmers and learn more about how salmon from Scotland reaches supermarkets and restaurants throughout the UK and across the world.
Hamish Macdonell, Director of Strategic Engagement for SSPO, said:
“Our first priority now has to be protecting the health and welfare of everyone working on the farms so that they can continue supplying UK consumers with salmon. While it is disappointing to postpone this ground-breaking project, we will bring it back again when the time is right.
“The strategy behind the Open Farm month is to let people see for themselves how salmon is farmed, meet the farmers who are out on the lochs every day and learn how salmon farming has developed since the original idea 50 years ago.”
SSPO had also planned to exhibit at the Royal Highland Show in the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) area. Over 20,000 children with teachers or parents visit the RHET area every year.
The SSPO plans included interactive exhibits, science projects, tastings and online educational worksheets for children in both primary and secondary schools.
Discussions are underway to re-schedule this for next year when the Royal Highland Show returns.
Hamish Macdonell said: “The SSPO priority now is to support the sector in maintaining supply of salmon to UK supermarkets and to ensure that we stay in daily contact with ministers in both the Scottish and UK governments, with regulators and other organisations while we deal with this most challenging situation.
“In due course, we will be able to focus again on showing all our stakeholders why this is a sector we are proud of but for now our actions in managing the supply of healthy food is the right and only thing to do.”
A reception at the Scottish Parliament to showcase the strides been made by the sector in the last year has already been deferred until the autumn.
Click here for: SSPO sector update on COVID-19