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Fish farming is one of Scotland’s most important industries. 

More than 8,000 people are employed in shellfish and salmon farming 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 successful 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 provide licences for seaweed harvesting. 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 we will not issue a lease unless all other statutory consents are in place.    

How we contribute  

As well as awarding and managing leases, we contribute to the success of Aquaculture in Scotland with a research programme which includes:  

  • Exploring options for commercial seaweed farming 

  • Evaluating the critical mass required for economically viable shellfish production 

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

Business resources  

For details of how to obtain and operate an Aquaculture lease with us, please consult the sections below.

Before you make an application, we encourage you to: 

  • Contact us to check on the availability of the location 
  • Discuss your proposals with statutory authorities 
  • Discuss your proposals with anyone else likely to be involved in or affected by the development 

Scotland’s seabed is a shared public space that supports many diverse interests. Its sustainable use extends beyond compliance with development and sector specific regulation and includes broader obligations for responsible care and treatment of a shared public asset. Crown Estate Scotland considers this is best achieved through practices that:

  • incorporate co-operation with other marine users to minimise risk of both impacts on respective interests as well as cumulative impacts, and
  • recognise the duty of care incumbent on all who use and are supported by the resources of Scotland’s marine environment, irrespective of the scope of regulatory controls,

These are most clearly summarised as measures that promote and enable co-existence and good stewardship.

Discussion with Other Marine Users

The granting of regulatory consents requires the input of statutory consultees as part of their determination and early engagement with these authorities is strongly recommended. 

A consultation guidance document, with information on regulatory contacts can be found here.

In addition, Crown Estate Scotland recommends early pre-application discussions with other marine users to identify and resolve issues to enable co-existence. A list of key stakeholders is given below. This is not an exhaustive list; stakeholders will vary by location but is given to help applicants begin to identify marine users that may be impacted by developments.

Fishing Interests

Fishing is an important industry for Scotland. Working with local fishermen to identify key fishing grounds, areas and/or access that maybe needed for shelter is advised.

Consideration of how developments can be designed so as to not displace industry, but co-exist will be key to incorporate co-operation with other marine users. Contacts for the local Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups are given below to help with this. 

Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups & Contacts

West Highland Anchorages & Moorings Association (WHAM).

WHAM works to ensure that small vessels have unrestricted access to anchorage. This is particularly important to ensure vessels can get to a safe haven in times of bad weather.  Early consultation with WHAM to identify areas that need unrestricted access is recommended.

Transport Routes

Scotland has many islands and remote locations that are serviced by ferries. Discussions with ferry operators to ensure that developments are not going to hinder that service or displace areas needed in bad weather is advised in areas that this might be likely.

The main ferry service providers in Scotland are:


In some instances, there has been the potential for a development to coincide with a safe route used by the lifeboat association. Discussion with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to check safe lifeboat passage in areas at potential risk should be considered.  

Recreational Sailing

The west coast and islands are popular with recreational sailors, many from local clubs and associations around the area in addition to visitors from further afield. Prospective developers should identify and engage with these sailing interests to confirm the proposals do not impact unacceptably on their activites.

If you would like to discuss this with a member of the team please contact

You may apply to lease seabed for aquaculture at any time, but you will need permissions from other bodies before we can award one. 

You will need the following permissions, based on the kind of lease you are applying for: 

  • For finfish farming, you will need a SEPA CAR consent, Marine Licence and Planning Consent
  • For shellfish farming, you will need a Marine Licence and Planning Consent  
  • For seaweed farming, you will need a Marine Licence 

If you apply before you have the permissions, we may be able to grant you a lease option, which can be progressed to a full lease once they are in place. 

To apply for a Crown Estate Scotland lease to farm finfish, shellfish or seaweed: 


Download our application forms and guidance notes from the sidebar. Please note that: 

  • Renewal forms are for existing sites that do have a Crown Estate Scotland reference number 

Aquaculture charges depend different factors for finfish and shellfish. 

For finfish, charges are based on net gutted weight and species.  

  • For example, we currently charge £27.50 per tonne for salmon  

For shellfish, charges are based on length of rope and other types of equipment.  

  • For example, we currently charge 20 pence per metre for mussels, with a minimum charge of £135 p.a. 

Both finfish and shellfish rents are reviewed every five years. 

Following a competitive tendering process, we appointed an expert panel in October 2019 to undertake a root & branch review of our rent and lease terms for aquaculture tenants. The outputs of that review will be implemented at a later date. 

To discuss our rents and charges, please contact

Assigning or renouncing your lease 

Once you have a lease, you will also have the option to assign it to another party – for example, if you are selling your business – or to renounce it. 

To assign your lease to another party, use this Assignation form

To renounce your lease, use one of the two forms below. 

Decommissioning and removal of deployed equipment 

At the end of your lease, all equipment associated with the fish farm including moorings must be completely removed.  

We can request a seabed survey to confirm that removals have taken place. 

For details of how to obtain a seaweed harvesting licence, please see below.

Our policy on seaweed harvesting is to licence it chiefly to ensure sustainable practice where it is proposed on Crown foreshore/seabed in Scotland.

Hand harvesting of seaweed for any form of monetary or other reward from Crown foreshore or seabed in Scotland requires a licence from Crown Estate Scotland. The granting of the licence is dependent upon relevant natural heritage authority (Scottish Natural Heritage) confirmation that the harvesting proposal does not present any evident unacceptable environmental risks or impacts.

We require the following information in order to proceed with a proposal:

  1. An indication of the stretch(es) of coastline in question. We will need some detail on the exact locations as co-ordinates or plans of the stretches of foreshore/seabed - to establish whether it is Crown land or not. We will also need to know whether you propose to harvest on foreshore only (i.e., between marks of Mean Low Water and Mean High Water Spring tides) or whether on seabed below the Mean Low Water Spring tide mark as well
  2. An indication of the species of interest
  3. An indication of the annual wet weight volume of seaweed sought. We appreciate that this may not be available in any detail but to know whether it will amount to 10's or 100's of kgs or tonnes will help to determine the nature of licence that may be required
    • Harvest Options: Please note that larger scale proposals (> circa 90 – 100 tonnes wet weight per annum) for foreshore and near-shore harvesting of seaweed that is not subject to statutory licensing will be subject to a Harvest Licence Options process. This offers conditional interest at identified locations that can be applied for during two designated ‘applications windows’ per year. For 2018 this will be the last two weeks of September and thereafter the 1st fortnights in March and September each year.
    • This process aims to address competing harvest interest for larger scale activities on Crown foreshore in Scotland and will constitute the only means whereby licences for volumes qualifying for this Options process can be secured.
  4. All applications must include documented confirmation from relevant environmental authority stating their satisfaction that the proposed activity is sustainable and will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects. 

All proposals must be submitted to who will deal with it accordingly.

Collection for personal use does not require a licence and we are content for such collection to proceed for small quantities appropriate to personal use. We recommend anyone doing so takes account of environmental sensitivity of collecting anything from the wild. 

Please note that it is Crown Estate Scotland policy not to licence harvesting of natural seaweeds in designated conservation areas unless there is clear confirmation of no potential risk posed to qualifying features.