The Scottish Government is being urged to suspend its support for increased production in the salmon farming sector.
It comes as a new report claims the impact the industry has on employment and the economy is hugely overestimated.
The study suggests the sector’s gross value added (GVA) is “possibly exaggerated by 124%”, while employment “could be overestimated by a massive 251%”.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing described the timing of the publication of the report “disappointing”.
Mr Ewing added: “The Scottish Government’s focus at this time is fully on supporting our remote, coastal and island communities to cope with the public health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19.
“That includes supporting the thousands of jobs and livelihoods linked directly and indirectly to fish farming in these communities and elsewhere in Scotland, and providing people with a healthy, affordable source of protein by ensuring that supermarkets stock Scottish salmon.”
But the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, which commissioned the research along with Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, demanded Holyrood authorises an independent assessment of the economic contribution of salmon aquaculture “that considers the industry in the round”.
The report, given to the PA news agency, said economic data for the sector was “partial” and “incomplete”, while income and employment evidence was “unreliable”.
Industry body the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said the report “makes grotesque assumptions, unfounded claims and offers numerous unsupported anecdotes as evidence”.
In a Commons debate last year, the Scottish salmon farming sector was described as being worth more than £1 billion to the UK economy, with MPs told it supported 12,000 jobs across the supply chain.