Fish farm plan cast adrift as rare ma­rine species found on sea bed

The Herald - - NEWS - ALAN SIMP­SON SE­NIOR NEWS RE­PORTER

PLANS to open a con­tro­ver­sial fish farm in a pro­tected sea area have been dropped af­ter un­prece­dented op­po­si­tion due to fears for some of Scot­land’s rarest ma­rine life found liv­ing near the site.

The huge Sound of Jura de­vel­op­ment would have con­tained a dozen cir­cu­lar cages ca­pa­ble of host­ing around one mil­lion fish, mainly rain­bow trout.

But the plan has now been scrapped af­ter sea-bed sur­veys showed a va­ri­ety of rare ma­rine species liv­ing near the site.

En­vi­ron­men­tal watch­dogs re­fused to rec­om­mend the pro­pos­als got the go-ahead af­ter the sur­veys found ex­tremely rare north­ern sea fans di­rectly be­low the planned site.

The plants have the high­est level of ma­rine pro­tec­tion and, along with the crit­i­cally-en­dan­gered com­mon skate, have seen the project re­jected.

The blue­print for the rain­bow trout farm

We will pro­mote the Sound of Jura as an im­por­tant re­source

in Dounie, just south of Cri­nan on the main­land, at­tracted a wave of crit­i­cism from nearby res­i­dents, con­ser­va­tion­ists and wa­ter­sports en­thu­si­asts.

It would have been lo­cated just 60 yards off the shore­line at Dounie, in stretch of the pop­u­lar Scot­tish Sea Kayak Trail and the new Ar­gyll Sea Kayak Trail.

It was also within the newly des­ig­nated Loch Su­nart to Sound of Jura Ma­rine Pro­tected Area set out to safe­guard rare ma­rine fea­tures such as the sea fans and the com­mon skate.

Sea lice, chem­i­cals and es­cap­ing fish are seen as threats to species such as por­poises, as well as to wild sal­mon and trout from a lo­cal river.

Fam­ily-run Kames Fish Farm­ing Limited ap­plied to the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency seek­ing a li­cence but have now dropped the pro­pos­als al­to­gether fol­low­ing the Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage un­der­wa­ter sur­vey.

A pres­sure group called The Friends of the Sound of Jura (FoSoJ) was formed to high­light con­cerns about the project and they have wel­comed the de­ci­sion to drop the farm.

FoSoJ spokesman Mark Smith, said: “We have al­ways main­tained that this in­dus­tri­al­sized fish farm should have no place within a Ma­rine Pro­tected Area.

“The wildlife of the Sound in­cludes the rare flap­per skate, por­poises, ot­ters and seals, as well as smaller rar­i­ties like the north­ern sea fan.

“They have been spared be­ing smoth­ered in thou­sands of tonnes of fish fae­ces laced with pes­ti­cides ev­ery year.

“The wild sal­mon and sea trout which mi­grate to the River Add have been spared the cat­a­strophic bur­den of sea lice as­so­ci­ated with fish farms. We will con­tinue to pro­mote the Sound of Jura as an im­por­tant re­source for use by the lo­cal com­mu­nity, an­glers, creel fish­er­men, scal­lop divers, sailors, tourists and all of us who value and de­pend on the good health of the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment.”

Fish farm­ing is worth £1.86 bil­lion a year to the econ­omy and is an im­por­tant source of em­ploy­ment in ru­ral ar­eas.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment plans to dou­ble pro­duc­tion of farmed sal­mon by 2030.

Stu­art Can­non, KFF manag­ing di­rec­tor, had ar­gued that “sea lice were not nearly the same prob­lem for rain­bow trout as sal­mon”.

He added: “We have been in pro­duc­tion for 45 years, and are not go­ing to sud­denly pol­lute the whole of the Sound. We do lis­ten to lo­cal con­cerns and we will com­ply with what­ever the au­thor­i­ties tell us.”

The fish farm was ear­marked for the Sound of Jura but a ma­rine sur­vey found sev­eral rare species liv­ing at the site and the plan has been dropped.

The plan had been to raise mil­lions of rain­bow trout.

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