A sunken fish farm feed barge off the coast of Skye that gave off a noxious stink in August was emitting a potentially explosive mix of toxic chemicals, an activist has found.
In August a strong smell of rotten eggs noticed around the harbour was attributed to the sunken vessel’s cargo of putrefying fish feed.
Anti-fish farm campaigner Don Staniford has published a number of documents from consultants and government bodies including Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that have revealed the vessel operated by fish farm company Bakkafrost was giving off “significant levels” of hydrogen sulphide at potentially flammable levels.
At the time authorities including Police Scotland and Highland Council established an exclusion zone around the site of the barge and installed monitors to warn if levels became hazardous.
Police Scotland said the exclusion zone did not reach land but a warning was issued to mariners with the parameters of the exclusion.
Bakkafrost Scotland, which recently changed its name from Scottish Salmon Company after it was acquired by Faroe Island-based Bakkafrost in 2020, said removal of the barge could start this week, weather depending, nearly a year after it sank.
Salmon farm operator statement
A spokesman for the firm, which is listed on the Oslo Bourse, said: “Bakkafrost Scotland can confirm the successful and safe completion of the initial recovery stage of venting gas from the submerged feeding barge at the Portree farm site, which was damaged during Storm ‘Arwen’ in November 2021.
“Throughout the recovery process we have been working closely with the relevant authorities including Sepa, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Fire Brigade, alongside other experts, and we are now progressing to the next stage of the operation which will include lifting the barge.
“The relevant authorities are being kept informed of progress and we will work with the recovery experts to ensure a safe conclusion to the operation.
“Bakkafrost Scotland is fully committed to ensuring public safety in relation to all of its operations, vessels and equipment.”
A Highland Council spokesman said: “A build-up of gas as a result of the decomposition of fish feed was detected on the sunken barge in August 2022. Partner agencies came together to consider what risk this might pose and what response might be necessary. ”
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesperson said: “The MCA continues to attend multi-agency Highland Emergency Liaison Group meetings, which are supporting the barge recovery works being undertaken by Bakkafrost Scotland (formerly Scottish Salmon Company).”
However one company that will not be involved with the removal of the barge is contractor Briggs Marine.
The Burntisland-based contractor was initially involved with salvaging the wreck this summer but is currently in dispute with the fish farming company.
A spokeswoman for Briggs Marine said: “Briggs Marine was awarded a contract by Bakkafrost Scotland to salvage the sunken feed barge and its cargo.
“Following the discovery of significant levels of hydrogen sulphide within the wreck, all appropriate precautionary and safety measures have been taken in close consultation with the relevant local authorities and stakeholders.
“Following a payment dispute with Bakkafrost, Briggs have demobilised from the site and legal proceedings have commenced.”