Scotland’s largest salmon farming operator, Marine Harvest, has submitted an application to Highland Council to increase production at its site off the isle of Muck, in the Inner Hebrides.
If approved, the expansion would create three new jobs, adding to the fish farm’s full-time workforce of six on the island, which has a population of 38.
The farm was opened four years ago as part of an £80million expansion by the Norwegian-owned firm, which has seen the creation of a series of larger “open sea” sites. New houses were built on Muck to accommodate staff.
Marine Harvest business support manager Steve Bracken said: “The opening of the fish farm off Muck in 2014 gave a real boost to the island in terms of both jobs and houses.
“We opened the fish farm after an extensive consultation process which clearly showed support for our plans.”
The proposed expansion has been welcomed on the island, which lies off the west coast of the Highlands and is the smallest of the “Small Isles.”
Local farmer and landowner Colin McEwen said: “Having the fish farm here has been of great benefit to the island community.
“And it’s not just about the jobs at the fish farm, although that has been most welcome.
It’s also meant improvements to the jetty which provides a better experience for visitors and Marine Harvest have come to the rescue a few times when the ferry has gone off.
“They’ve really become part of the community.”
The changes to the farm would involve moving the equipment nearer to the shore and extending the moorings around 246ft to the north-west.
Two new farm pens would be added, with the same design as the existing equipment, allowing for an increase in production from 2,500 to 3,500 tonnes.
The existing salmon farm consists of 10 circular pens, each 394ft in diameter. Up to 4,000 tonnes of fresh salmon have been grown in the pens every two years since the site opened.
Earlier this year, Marine Harvest was granted planning permission for a salmon farm off another of the small isles, Rum.
It is expected to create 12 new jobs.