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Campaigner calls for comments on ‘largest fish farm in Scotland’ scoping application for Loch Linnhe

Loch Linnhe. Image: Bill Cameron
Loch Linnhe. Image: Bill Cameron

A scoping exercise is underway, for what would be one of Scotland’s largest fish farms, to be based in north Argyll.

The eight-cage semi-closed containment plant with shore-side buildings and equipment, up to 50ft in height, is being planned for an area north of Appin, on Loch Linnhe.

Objectors say the scoping request for the salmon farm and shore base will be “double the biggest salmon farm in Scotland”.

The application has been made by Arcus Consultancy Services Ltd on behalf of Loch Long Salmon Company.

The application was lodged with Argyll and Bute Council in November. While a good number of statutory consultees have replied to requests for comment, to date no comments from members of the public have been published by Argyll and Bute Council.

The application is described as being sited “north of Lurignish Farm, Appin in Argyll”, plans show it would follow the contours of the A828 road between North Connel and Ballachulish Bridge at Pollach.

In papers associated with the application, the applicant said: “The development would involve the construction and operation of a semi-closed containment fish farm located approximately 300yds north of Lurignich Farm from site centre, or 190ft from closest point of site boundary, adjacent to the eastern bank of the upper reaches of Loch Linnhe in the Firth of Lorn.”

What is the development?

The development has two components: the marine fish farm and the shorebase, housing the fish farm support systems.

The marine section proposes up to eight semi-closed “marine farming enclosures”, or cages, a harvesting cage, two rings for fresh water supplies, a floating pontoon and a slipway. It also has a mooring system and workboat mooring, “umbilical” services to the cages, submerged piping and underwater and navigational lighting.

On the shore, a building has been proposed containing office, workshop, sleeping quarters and storage areas and car parking for staff cars.  A new access road and junction from the A828.

Don Staniford who is calling for people to look at the planning application and make a comment. Image: Don Staniford

There will be up to eight oxygen storage vessels with a maximum height of 50ft, feed silos with a maximum height of 32ft, a water treatment plant including wastewater storage tank with a maximum height of 42ft and a discharge pipe from shore into the loch.

Other equipment may be housed in containers on the site.

Statutory consultees raise points about the application

The Lochaber District Salmon Fishery Board said it welcomed the use of newer technologies in the production of salmon in the West Highlands, particularly those that offer protection from wild salmon populations from the known threats of sea lice infestation and genetic pollution from escaped farm fish breeding in the wild.

It continued: “We would argue that the zone of influence of this farm should there be any problems will be the whole of Loch Linnhe all the way up to Fort William where, for example, the River Lochy, one of the largest and most important salmon rivers on the West Coast, and several other key salmonid rivers are located, let alone the rivers already mentioned in the application.

“A far more detailed assessment of zone of risk is required.”

Argyll Fisheries Board said it was concerned about sea lice from such a “high-density setting” and “escapes” on wild sea trout and wild salmon.

The Royal Yachting Association said there were visitor moorings in the area.

A letter from the organisation said: “Recreational boaters in these waters are used to watching out for fish farms so they are not a real hazard provided that they are marked according to the Northern Lighthouse Board standard and that the lights are well-maintained.

“It is important that mitigation is in place to warn recreational boaters by day and by night if access between the pens and the shore is not possible.”

Make comments on the application

Anti-fish farm campaigner Don Staniford is calling on people to comment on the application.

He said: ” After being refused planning permission in Loch Long – the Loch Long Salmon Company is now eyeing up Loch Linnhe for a new 8,000 tonne ‘semi-closed’ (i.e. still open) salmon farm which if approved would be more than double Scotland’s largest salmon farm.

“Currently the largest salmon farm is Mowi’s Isle of Muck salmon farm at 3,500 tonnes.”

Stewart Hawthorn, managing director of Loch Long Salmon, said: “We are continuing to explore the possibility of bringing transformative semi-closed containment aquaculture technology to Scotland, which will support rural jobs and produce a low-carbon animal protein with significantly reduced environmental impacts and increased fish welfare.

“This proven technology has been endorsed by a number of environmental groups including Atlantic Salmon Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.

“We have held preliminary discussions with a number of community councils and have submitted a Scoping Request to Argyll and Bute Council for one possible site.”

He continued: “We are still in the very early stages of this process and will engage fully and openly with local people to outline the benefits of this technology and answer any questions they might have.”