Loch Long Salmon (LLS) is appealing against the decision to turn down the company’s application to build Scotland’s first semi-closed fish farm.
The proposed farm at Beinn Reithe, near Arrochar, is located within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. In October last year, the Park’s board rejected the company’s planning application, stating that the proposed semi-closed containment system “has not been trialled in Scotland and there are inherent risks from an escape incident to wild salmon populations which are already fragile”.
However, Loch Long Salmon managing director Stewart Hawthorn says that the decision is “fundamentally flawed”, arguing it is “based on fear and a misunderstanding of the technology and its potential to transform the Scottish aquaculture sector.”
“The National Park has no experience of handling this kind of application and, rather than listening to experts such as NatureScot, SEPA and Forestry & Land Scotland, who all said the project could go ahead, they based their view on a misunderstanding that our plans were the same as existing open net salmon farms,” Hawthorn said in a statement.
“Through the appeal process, we are committed to demonstrating that we can bring positive change to Scotland, radically improve the environmental performance of salmon farming and secure jobs in rural areas.”
LLS argues that the venture would create high-skilled jobs in the area, and says that the farm has been planned in close collaboration with Park officials.
“We carefully sited and designed the farm with the full collaboration of the Park’s planning team and, as a result, the farm can’t even be seen from more than 99% of the Park. Officers also used concerns regarding theoretical impacts on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) more than 55km away from the development in justifying the decision to refuse the application. This was contrary to the expert advice from NatureScot who confirmed the project could safely proceed.”
However, the National Park Authority’s statement in rejecting the proposal claimed that “such a nationally important landscape is not the appropriate location to host development of such an industrial scale and where the risk of an escape of farmed fish could impact on designated water courses”.
“The semi-closed containment systems proposed – whilst noted as a substantial step forward for the industry – have not yet been trialled in Scotland and there is not a sound body of evidence on which to base decision making”, the report argued, adding “the proposed development also presents a number of significant landscape, seascape and visual issues. It would have an industrial character and would notably contrast with the largely undeveloped and remote character of the local landscape”.
In its initial application, Loch Long Salmon argued that the semi-closed containment system being proposed would avoid most of the problems associated with conventional net-pen fish farming. Such systems protect fish from sea lice and collect most of the solid waste, which can then be used in anaerobic digesters for green energy production. From the surface, such semi-closed containment sites look like traditional salmon farms, but underneath the water an impermeable membrane surrounds the pens, with water being pumped from lower levels in the loch.