3,000 sign Sound of Jura fish farm petition
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