The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority Board rejected an application for a marine fish farm under Beinn Reithe, Loch Long, which aimed to be Scotland’s first semi-closed salmon farm. James Stuart, Convenor of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said the decision was taken “following careful consideration by the Board of the planning assessment report, together with responses from statutory bodies and community members, and representations from speakers both in support of and in objection to the proposal at a thorough public hearing in Arrochar”.
For their part, the Loch Long Salmon project promoters saw the refusal as a “missed opportunity” to bring this transformative aquaculture technology to Scotland for the first time. Moreover, they stressed that the decision has been made “despite the project being supported by the closest community council; national bodies such as SEPA and NatureScot; and a cross-party group of Councillors, MSPs, and the local MP”.
Not the appropriate location, according to National Park Authority
“It’s the right project, and it’s in the right place”, Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director of Loch Long Salmon, told WeAreAquaculture some days ago. However, the statement on Loch Long Fish Farm planning application the National Park Authority, 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”, they continued. And added, “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”.
From Long Loch Salmon they think otherwise. “The National Park Board have missed an opportunity to sensitively use the natural resources within the park to support local communities and fulfil their mission to improve the wider environment beyond the borders of the Park”, said Stewart Hawthorn.
Semi-closed containment technology, a sticking point
“There is a clear risk that the technology may not be sufficiently successful and the location of the application site in Loch Long – with connectivity to the Endrick Water Special Area of Conservation and its fragile population of Atlantic salmon – means that the impacts associated with a potential escape of farmed fish is a significant concern”, noted James Stuart, Convenor of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, in the statement announcing the rejection of permission for the Long Loch Salmon project.
The project developers, for their part, believe that the worry about escapes addresses “a further and legitimate concern around the aquaculture sector”. However, they reminded that while from the surface, a semi-closed containment technology site looks like a traditional salmon farm, underwater, the net is surrounded by an impermeable membrane, with water drawn up and circulated from deeper in the Loch. “This removes the threat of sea lice and attacks by seals, meaning it won’t ever use sea lice treatments or acoustic devices that can harm dolphins or other cetaceans”, they said. “Hundreds of cycles of this technology in other countries have proven these facts”, they added and highlighted that this technology has also been endorsed by environmental groups such as the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.
Finally, Stewart Hawthorn made it clear that Loch Long Salmon is not giving up. “There are a range of options available to us to continue our efforts to bring the benefits of semi-closed containment aquaculture to Loch Long”, said the Managing Director. “We will explore those options carefully over the coming days and weeks before deciding on the next steps”, he concluded.