Scottish (environmentally damaging) salmon, farmed by non-British company, are main Heathrow air freight export by weight

An article in the Telegraph takes at face value the blurb put out by Heathrow on its air freight exports. As Heathrow and its backers never ever mention imports, people may be led to believe there are only exports and no imports going through Heathrow. The reality is very different. Heathrow’s figures show the total tonnage of exports in 2014 was 345,575 tonnes, out of the total of 1,501,906 tonnes. That is 23%. The other 77% by weight was imports.  The value of exports via Heathrow in 2014 was £48 billion, out of a total for air freight of £101 billion. So the value of exports was 47.5%.  Never mentioned by Heathrow.  The Telegraph focuses on the exports of Scottish salmon by Heathrow.  It is deeply odd, not to mention highly unsustainable, that Scottish fish are not exported from Scottish airports – and why they are flown to London, for their onward journey. It is also ironic because Scottish farmed salmon not only cause serious problems for the few remaining wild salmon, but also for the waters where the farms are located. And the farms are largely owned by foreign companies, so not British at all. The largest grower is the massive Marine Harvest Scotland, based in Norway. So Norwegian company damages Scottish environment, to ship fish by air to London, and then across the world.  And Heathrow wants another runway so it can do more of this sort of thing.  Weird world  …


“New Customs and Excise data breaking down exports through the London airport give a revealing insight into the composition of the 345,575 tonnes of British goods worth more than £48bn that took off from Heathrow last year.”

Taken from a Telegraph article that just regurgitates a Heathrow press release, unquestioningly. No mention of imports at all.

That just proves how much smaller Heathrow air freight exports are than its imports.

The CAA data for 2014 show the total air freight at Heathrow was 1,501,906 tonnes.  The 345,575 tonnes was just 23% of the total weight of air cargo. The other 77% of air freight was imports.  Odd that Heathrow never mentions them.

Heathrow says the value of its air freight in 2014 was £101 billion. But it says the value of its exports was £48 billion.  That is 47.5% of the total – a bit under half.

The rest is imports. (But the value per tonne of the exports is higher than the value per tonne for the imports.)


Flying fish: why fresh salmon are a crucial cargo for Heathrow

Salmon have taken off as a key UK export being shipped through Heathrow, along with gold, jet engines – and raincoats

Tens of thousands of tonnes of salmon is exported via Heathrow every year Photo: Reuters

Almost 50,000 tonnes of fresh salmon for sale in other countries is shipped through Heathrow a year, making fish by far the airport’s biggest export by weight. [Heathrow’s press release says: “Fresh Salmon is the UK’s number one export by weight via Heathrow, with 46,000 tonnes exported in the most recent 12 month period, the same weight as 230 blue whales.”]

Heathrow exports tonnage and value

New Customs and Excise data breaking down exports through the London airport give a revealing insight into the composition of the 345,575 tonnes of British goods worth more than £48bn that took off from Heathrow last year.

China’s growing importance as a trading partner is highlighted by surging volumes of goods being sent there. In the 12 months to the end of July, £7.6bn of goods were exported there, a rise of 117pc on the previous year.

The country is now the second-biggest destination for exports by value, behind only the US at £14bn, and if the current trend continues it looks set to take the top spot within two years.

The growing importance of Asian trade is further shown by the fact that countries from the region hold four of the top five places when it comes to exports by value.

Cyprus has agreed to sell gold reserves to raise around ?400m  Photo: Alamy

Massively ahead of anything else when it comes to value being exported through the airport were precious metals, with £26bn-worth of them being despatched from Heathrow during the year.

Also putting in a strong showing was jewellery, at £3bn a year, and diamonds, at £800m.

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce was a major contributoir to exports of jet engines

Britain’s standing in the global aerospace industry is shown by the amount of aircraft engines and components that travelled through Heathrow.

The UK’s aerospace industry is worth £29bn a year, making it the world’s second largest, and £3.5bn of aircraft engines were exported via Heathrow last year, along with a further £1.9bn in aircraft engine parts and £1.6bn-worth of other aircraft components.

Health crises such as ebola mean that the value of human vaccines exported through the airport is rising fast, hitting £1.8bn last year, an increase of 97pc on the same period a year earlier.

When it comes to weight, the 46,343 tonnes of salmon exported through Heathrow last year was the biggest single commodity and the equivalent of 105 full-laden 747 jumbo jets.

Britain’s fashion industry also gets a look in with 3,640 tonnes of clothes being exported, and one of the fastest growing sub-sectors is overcoats and raincoats, rising at a rate of 60pc a year.

Heathrow is currently engaged in a fierce fight with Gatwick to be selected by the Government as the site for a new runway in the South East, though the West London location has been recommended by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission.

£48bn of UK goods were exported through Heathrow last year

Boosting its ambitions are Heathrow’s plans for a £180m investment expanding its cargo operations.

The data have been released as part of UKTI’s Export Week, which aims to boost foreign sales by British companies to hit the Government’s target of doubling exports to £1 trillion by 2020.


One comment below the article says: 

“Why are Salmon flown out via Heathrow instead of Glasgow, Prestwick or Newcastle? Why are aircraft parts made in Derby flown out by Heathrow instead of Ringway (Manchester) or Birmingham? How much of Heathrow’s traffic is “hub transfers” for people and goods where other less congested UK airports could better compete with Schiphol or Frankfurt? How much is essential business traffic for London?”

Another says:

“As usual, what’s good for Heathrow is at odds with what’s best for the country:
“Salmon farming in Scotland is 95% owned by overseas companies and pays a negligible amount of tax to the UK Exchequer” (See Scotsman link) .  3 out of the top exports by value are aircraft engines & parts !! Talk about the irony and a self-serving industry, that really sums it up”

It is ironic that Heathrow exports farmed salmon, from Scotland.

First, why on earth can the salmon – if indeed it must be exported ? – be freighted from a Scottish airport?  Why travel all the way down to London, to travel via Heathrow?
Second, farmed salmon is a very environmentally unfriendly industry – doing huge harm not only to wild salmon, but to the waters in which it is practised.  It is also relatively high in chemicals that are not very good for human health.
See below:

Salmon myth

6 March 2015 (Scotsman – Have Your Say)Can someone explain the significance of the headline, “Salmon is favourite for exports” (23 March)?

To me this headline infers that the salmon farming industry is of economic benefit to Scotland and the UK and that would be a misleading conclusion. Salmon farming in Scotland is 95 per cent owned by overseas companies and pays a negligible amount of tax to the UK Exchequer, so there is not much benefit here.

Is there, then, any benefit to Scotland in employment and jobs?

Again the answer is no: the salmon farming industry is highly automated, equipment and feed is largely imported and its operations have destroyed more jobs in the traditional wild fisheries than it has created.

Salmon farming is a polluting, eco-unfriendly and unsustainable industry and one that produces a food which contains artificial growth hormones, antibiotics and a host of other chemicals dangerous to human health – a very different food product to the nutritious wild salmon, which the salmon farming industry represents as being the same.

The final irony, and indignity, in this article is the misleading picture of a leaping wild salmon, a species, along with its cousin the sea trout, threatened with extinction due to the activities of the salmon farmers.

Perhaps the picture accompanying the article should have been of a prison cage containing 50,000 other salmon being drenched by tons of chemicals to eradicate sea lice.


And there is more information about the environmentally damaging practice of farming salmon from Corporate Watch at
Corporate Watch say:

The scandal of farmed salmon

The salmon is one of the great symbols of the wild, known to swim thousands of miles across the oceans to spawn in specific rivers of Britain. It is a much prized animal, both by fishermen and by cooks. However, the salmon population is in crisis. Overfishing and pollution have taken their toll to the point that many salmon populations are in extreme decline.

To reverse this the Environment Agency has been pumping money into hatcheries and river management schemes to preserve this fish. However, in Scotland the government is supporting an industry which is having a destructive effect on the remaining wild salmon, and threatens to cause their extinction in many rivers.

As the numbers of wild salmon have declined, salmon farms have been established in Scottish river estuaries. In 2003 there were 81 companies running fish farms at 326 sites in Scotland. Overall production was dominated by 19 companies accounting for over 77% of the salmon production in Scotland. Fish farming in Scotland accounts for 2,000 direct jobs and between 4,000 and 5,000 in supporting sectors. Around 75% of these jobs are in the Highlands and Islands.



Marine Harvest Scotland

A large proportion of Scotland’s fish farms is now owned by the massive multinational corporation Marine Harvest, the world’s largest aquaculture company. Now part of the Norwegian-Dutch multinational Nutreco, it specialises in fish farming and other animal foodstuffs. Marine Harvest Scotland produces up to 35,000 tonnes of salmon each year. Half of this goes to UK customers, and the remainder goes to the EU, US and Asia

Marine Harvest was founded in Scotland in the mid-1960s. In 1994, it was bought by Booker which merged it with its subsidiary, McConnell Salmon. It was acquired in 1999 by Nutreco, which changed its name to Marine Harvest Scotland. Its headquarters are now in Bergen, Norway.

More at


Marine Harvest Scotland did not have a very good year, in 2014 with a large increase in the amount of disease in their salmon and the need to spend even more on medicinal chemicals to keep diseases in check.   (Not good for wild salmon which need to swim past the farms to get to their native rivers).