Loch Long Salmon’s Director says it’s the right project, and it’s in the right place

Arrochar Alps reflecting in Loch Long. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Arrochar Alps reflecting in Loch Long. Photo: Adobe Stock.

The recommendation from Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park officials to members is that they refuse the application for Loch Long Salmon project in Beinn Reithe. However, as both the company's director and the Park's communications team remind us, we have to wait until 31 October, when the Park Board will make its decision. The future of Scotland's first salmon farm with semi-closed containment technology is still up in the air, but that doesn't put Loch Long Salmon's Director, Stewart Hawthorn, off. "Our objective is to convince the Planning Board on the 31st of October that this is a good project", he tells WeAreAquaculture.

Complete confidence in the project

"We know that we went through a very thorough process to site the farm. We consulted extensively with the Park through that process and we selected the specific location with their input. So, we feel very confident that we have got a good location that meets all of the planning requirements and was selected in accordance with those planning documents and in fact with the planning officers themselves". As stated, Hawthorn is confident in the project.

Stewart Hawthorn, Loch Long Salmon's Director. Photo: Loch Long Salmon.

The Director of Loch Long Salmon recalls that all the documents they already provided, and the independent environmental impact assessment indicated that the project could go ahead. However, in their argumentation for recommending the denial of the permit for the salmon farm, National Park officials raised landscape and technological objections, in addition to others related to woodland loss. 

"We still haven't quite got our formal response to that, so, I can't comment on it too much at this stage, but we would say that the regulatory body that gives advice to the planning authorities, they're not experts in these things. So, they go to various government agencies for expert advice", Hawthorn explains and gives an example. As far as impacts on the special area of conservation (SAC), they went to Nature Scot, the government agency that deals with environmental protection in this particular case. The answer was that there was no problem as long as the applicant complied with certain things. "And we agreed to those things", Loch Long Salmon's Director says, "so, they're planning also have gone against the advice of the experts".

Semi-closed containment technology confronts the parties

But environmental concerns are not the only objections to the project. Among the reasons for refusal listed in the planning officer's report, there is also a mention of the semi-closed containment system proposed for the Long Loch Salmon farm. "The technology proposed has not been trialled in Scotland and there are inherent risks from an escape incident to wild salmon populations which are already fragile", it says. This distrust is particularly striking when we consider that the technology has been successfully tested in countries such as Norway, or that in Canada, for example, the government of British Columbia is promoting the switch to semi-closed containment technology precisely to protect the wild salmon population.

"We've provided a lot of evidence. Peer-reviewed scientific papers, Ph.D. pieces, Masters of Science pieces, attestations from their suppliers of the equipment verifying that their equipment works and a letter from the research consortium called Control Aqua in Norway, which verified that the systems are very effective in work", Stewart Hawthorn tells WeAreAquaculture. "We've supplied all this evidence that the systems are proven and that they work, and yet the planning authorities, the officers, have said they don't work, they're not sure".

According to him, Norway is a European country that's got very strict regulations, so you should be able to rely on the work from there, and they expect that when they make that case it will be seen positively. "When we say it will work, we say it will work because we have this evidence that shows it will work. And they seem to be relying on comments from lay people saying it won't work, and it doesn't seem appropriate to me", Loch Long Salmon's Director says. "It seems like a poor way to make an important decision, especially when the Park itself recognises this is nationally significant".

Looking forward 31st of October

WeAreAquaculture has also contacted the Park's communications team. "We have this week published a report outlining planning officer's recommendation that the application for a Marine Fish Farm below Beinn Reithe, Loch Long, be refused", a spokesman for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority says. "The report has been published following a detailed assessment, and consideration, against key documents, policies and statutory requirements. It takes account of consultation responses that identify relevant planning considerations and responses from local and national Government bodies. This in line with the statutory process for major planning applications", continues. And concludes, "The recommendation will now be considered by the National Park Authority Board, who will take a final decision on whether to approve or refuse this application at a special meeting held in public on Monday 31st October, following a site visit and hearing".

In that meeting, there'll be also an opportunity for Long Loch Salmon to make a short presentation and to take questions for as long as the Board members wish. "We are looking forward to answering questions", Stewart Hawthorn states. "Our objective is to convince the Planning Board on the 31st of October that this is a good project, and it's the right project, and it's in the right place. And that's the message that we'll be giving to the Park Board, we strongly believe that this is the right project", he says.

"The salmon needs an opportunity to change for the better. We offer that, we just show that, and it's the right place", he continues. "What better place to have this kind of flagship project for Scotland than in the National Park where they're concerned about the environment? And we can make a positive difference with their support. So, we think we've got a good case and we're looking forward to the 31st of October".

Related Stories

No stories found.