Scottish land-based Gigha Halibut farm to close

Award-winning Scottish halibut producer to close operations after rising energy costs made its RAS-based fish farm "unviable".
Halibut in an RAS at the Otterferry Sea Fish Hatchery, sister company of Gigha Halibut. Source: Otterferry Sea Fish.
Halibut in an RAS at the Otterferry Sea Fish Hatchery, sister company of Gigha Halibut. Source: Otterferry Sea Fish.

Scottish land-based halibut farm Gigha Halibut has formally announced it will close, after 15 years of operation.

The company's directors have issued a statement saying they will no longer stock the fish farm on Gigha with juvenile halibut. The remaining halibut stock will be harvested out between now and May this year.

The producer, based in the small Hebridean island of Gigha, was the only land-based halibut farm in the UK. The company made a name for itself as a supplier for some of the UK's top restaurants, including those of celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc, as well as selling directly to consumers. Over the years, Gigha Halibut also won consumer accolades for its products, such as UK retailer Waitrose's "Made in Britain" award in 2009 and Best Scottish Product in the Great Taste Awards, in 2015.

Gigha's directors cite multiple factors for the decision, including changing water parameters, power costs for its recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) and the biological effects of climate change, all of which they say have challenged the overall viability of the farming halibut on the island.

"We are grateful to all those who have supported the company over this time, the chefs, consumers, suppliers and all who have helped the product reach the discerning customers. This would not have been possible without the support of the shareholders and investors who have helped finance the project," the directors said in a statement.

"Finally, thanks to the dedicated staff and supportive Island community who have helped keep the show running 24/7, 365 days a year often in the most extreme island weather."

Seeking new locations and alternative species

Company directors say they will consider alternative sites in Scotland for halibut farming, as well as investigating potential alternative uses for the fish farm facilities. Originally built in 1986 as a land-based facility for salmon farming, the Gigha farm is powered by local renewable energy and includes a seafood processing unit.

Gigha Halibut's sister company Otter Ferry Seafish, a marine hatchery, will continue its operations in Tighnabruaich, Argyll, on the Scottish mainland.

"We hope this may not be the end of fish farming on the site and the directors are evaluating various alternative species and uses that may be more suited to the changing conditions around Gigha. The Otter Ferry Seafish marine hatchery on Loch Fyne will continue to produce halibut juveniles and will seek to identify potential sites suitable for halibut farming elsewhere in Scotland."

The news comes shortly after Norwegian halibut farmer Nordic Halibut announced their new land-based facility has been given the green light. Other land-based halibut farming operations include Glitne in Norway.

About Gigha Halibut and Otter Ferry Seafish

Founded in 1967, Otter Ferry Seafish is one of the longest established aquaculture businesses in the UK. The company now specialises in the production of lumpfish and wrasse. The company is also the UK's only halibut hatchery, and founders of the multi-award winning Gigha Halibut. Current capacity at the marine hatchery is 100,000 juvenile halibut, 300,000 wrasse and 800,000 lumpfish.

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