3,000 sign Sound of Jura fish farm pe­ti­tion

The Oban Times - - News -

A PE­TI­TION against plans for the Sound of Jura’s first fish farm at Dounie, south of Cri­nan, has at­tracted 3,000 sig­na­tures.

Kilmelford-based Kames Fish Farm­ing Ltd sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion in Novem­ber for a SEPA li­cence for 12 cir­cu­lar cages, each 100m in cir­cum­fer­ence, to rear a max­i­mum of 2,500 tonnes of fish to meet de­mand, cre­ate six jobs and se­cure other po­si­tions in the fam­ily busi­ness oper­at­ing in Loch Melfort for 45 years.

How­ever, a local cam­paign group called Friends of the Sound of Jura ob­jects that the site is un­suit­able, ar­gu­ing that wildlife could be harmed by the in­dus­try’s ‘soar­ing’ use of pes­ti­cides to ‘un­suc­cess­fully’ con­trol sea lice, un­eaten food and fae­cal ef­flu­ent.

One ob­jec­tor, wildlife cam­era­man John Aitchi­son, said: ‘Loch Su­nart to the Sound of Jura was des­ig­nated a Marine Pro­tected Area (MPA) to pro­tect the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered flap­per skate.

‘The lo­ca­tion is just 200m from one of the deep­est troughs in the Sound, and there­fore near the skate. No- one knows what ef­fect this much ef­flu­ent or pes­ti­cides will have on them.’

Another ob­jec­tor, en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­viser Richard Lux­moore, said chem­i­cals used by fish farms were ‘highly poi­sonous to birds and mam­mals and all are toxic to crus­taceans, such as lob­sters and prawns. Chem­i­cals are be­ing used to less and less ef­fect and quan­ti­ties build up in the sed­i­ments near the fish farms.’

Lochgilp­head Angling Club mem­ber Mark Smith added: ‘The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s own sci­en­tific ev­i­dence shows wild sea trout and sal­mon are badly af­fected by the high lev­els of sea lice present around fish farms. Putting this fish farm close to the mouth of a spawn­ing river is ir­re­spon­si­ble and is likely to re­sult in the ex­tinc­tion of these wild fish in the River Add.

‘This has al­ready hap­pened in most other rivers up the West Coast but it shouldn’t be al­lowed to hap­pen here. A healthy river not only sup­ports wild fish but also an­glers and re­lated local busi­nesses such as bed and break­fasts and tackle shops.’

Ross Ap­p­le­yard, owner of a beat on the River Add and Kir­nan Hol­i­day Cot­tages, said: ‘If this farm goes ahead then the im­pact on the River Add would be huge. Our hol­i­day busi­ness at­tracts hun­dreds of vis­i­tors a year who want to see these fish in the wild. The jobs these tourists gen­er­ate for the local area in the ser­vice in­dus­try far out­weigh the few jobs the fish farm would bring in.’

Philip Price, of Ard­fern-based Loch Vi­sions, added: ‘My own and many of our area’s busi­nesses are based on the sus­tain­able use of the sea, and on Knap­dale’s great nat­u­ral beauty. There are many more jobs in tourism than the few that fish farm ex­pan­sion can cre­ate.’

Local fish­er­man Hans Un­kles said: ‘I have con­cerns the bay would be closed to creel boats and scal­lop divers. I’m not against fish farms, but it’s the last of the ar­eas not to con­tain fish cages and there is good rea­son for that – it’s not a safe place to put one.’

A SEPA (Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency) spokesper­son said the ap­pli­ca­tion had re­ceived 80 rep­re­sen­ta­tions, and it had ex­tended the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod to seek fur­ther in­for­ma­tion from the ap­pli­cant.

Kames Fish Farm­ing’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Stu­art Can­non said the com­pany was con­tin­u­ing ‘site sur­veys and sci­en­tific mod­el­ling to as­sess the suit­abil­ity of the site in Salem Mor bay’, and that the re­ported find­ings ‘so far sup­ports the ap­pli­ca­tion to SEPA for a CAR li­cence’.

The next stage re­quires a ‘thor­ough’ en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment ‘to en­sure that all po­ten­tial im­pacts are con­sid­ered and, if nec­es­sary, any mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures’.

‘Kames Fish Farm­ing hopes this ev­i­dence will help to al­lay con­cerns that have been raised and al­low greater un­der­stand­ing of the ac­tual im­pact of the pro­posal rather than per­ceived ones,’ said Mr Can­non.

No-one knows what ef­fect this will have ” John Aitchi­son Wildlife cam­era­man

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