Loch Duart

On the farm

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

THE two sites in Bad­call Bay are some of the orig­i­nal farms and ‘a great in­sight into the early days of Loch Duart’, said op­er­a­tions man­ager Hazel Wade. Just a short boat ride from Bad­call Salmon House, the first site Fish Farmer was taken to dur­ing a visit in early June had around 90,000 fish in its grid of 14 x 15m square steel pens.

Two pens are kept un­stocked but the rest con­tained 6,000-7,000 fish of around 1.5kg that are due to be­gin har­vest­ing late Novem­ber.

The fish were moved here in May from Bad­call’s sis­ter site, Calbha, just around the cor­ner, said site man­ager Robert Shaw.

The site is equipped with ny­lon pen nets, and an HDPE preda­tor net, made by Boris Nets, ‘a gi­ant cube, that sur­rounds the whole grid’, said Wade.There is also an Ace Aquatec acous­tic de­ter­rent de­vice on the site.

Ev­ery pen is draped with what looks like lay­ers of black plas­tic bin lin­ers, an in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar sight at salmon farms.

Th­ese are the wrasse hides, dry­ing in the sun (when it even­tu­ally emerges), while a sec­ond set are sub­merged in the pen.

‘The suc­cess of the cleaner fish has turned around this com­pany,’ said Wade.‘We’re see­ing much bet­ter growth and sur­vival thanks to them and the use of fresh­wa­ter baths.’

The health team in­cludes Beth Os­borne, the fish health man­ager, plus two bi­ol­o­gists on the main­land and one in the Uists.

Os­borne was over­see­ing a fresh­wa­ter bath treat­ment treat­ment at an­other site on the day of Fish Farmer’s visit, with the Mowi well­boat In­ter

Cale­do­nia, us­ing its re­verse os­mo­sis sys­tem.

The well­boat is very much in de­mand through­out the in­dus­try and there­fore Loch Duart has also de­vel­oped an ef­fec­tive fresh­wa­ter bathing sys­tem of its own to treat AGD.

This in­cludes a barge based, con­tainer­ised, de­sali­na­tion unit, made by Akva Fresh, which is dis­patched to wher­ever it is needed.

A tar­pau­lin is placed in one of the pens and the fresh­wa­ter cre­ated is piped into it. Fish are then trans­ferred (via a sec­ond barge with pump and de­wa­terer) into the fresh­wa­ter.

It takes a cou­ple of hours to trans­fer the fish over, and they are held in the tar­pau­lin for up to four hours.

A land­ing craft then re­moves the tar­pau­lin and the fish re­main where they are, re­duc­ing the amount of han­dling that is nec­es­sary.

‘It’s a proac­tive ther­apy mea­sure,’ said Wade, adding that the health team is watch­ful and car­ries out weekly gill checks, to­gether with the weekly sea lice mon­i­tor­ing, which con­tin­ues to re­port Loch Duart as vir­tu­ally lice free.

Fur­ther fresh­wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties could be an op­tion when a new boat on or­der for Mig­dale Trans­port be­comes op­er­a­tional in 2020.

This is ‘def­i­nitely some­thing we’d con­sider us­ing if its avail­able’,Wade said.

Feed in Bad­call Bay is distribute­d from two Akva con­crete feed barges, serv­ing the two walk­ways, and th­ese also run an aer­a­tion sys­tem into the pens – 24/7 dur­ing sum­mer

“The good thing about be­ing a rel­a­tively small com­pany is if we have ideas they can be acted quickly” on

months if nec­es­sary, said Wade.

The com­pany is also in the process of set­ting up a barge with a portable oxy­gen gen­er­a­tion sys­tem on it.

It is de­signed to re­spond to low oxy­gen lev­els on site, sup­ply­ing ad­di­tional oxy­genated wa­ter to the pens as nec­es­sary.

Made by Sterner, this is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in Lochin­ver and was due to be on site for tri­als by the end of July.

To clean the nets, Loch Duart uses a swimthroug­h sys­tem, leav­ing the nets up to air dry.The team com­pletes clean­ing the whole site ev­ery six to seven weeks, which gives them a chance to in­spect both the fish and the nets.

One swimthroug­h on the 15m pens takes a morn­ing and in­volves a cou­ple of peo­ple. On a 24m pen this will take all day.

But au­tomi­sa­tion has now been in­tro­duced, with the re­cent pur­chase of four Au­toBoss ro­botic clean­ers, made by Tri­mara.

Rep­re­sent­ing an over­all in­vest­ment of £1 mil­lion, the four units have been de­ployed in Suther­land and the Uists fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful trial, and Wade and Shaw said they were very happy with the re­sults.

On the sec­ond Bad­call Bay site, one of the Au­toBoss ma­chines was at work.

Low­ered into place by a crane aboard the work­boat Lady Ann, it takes about 30 min­utes to get round the pen, and can be con­trolled from a tablet.

The op­er­a­tor sets the depth and an alarm goes off if there is a prob­lem, but other­wise it can be left alone.

It ‘walks’ its way around the net, and the dif­fer­ence is vis­i­ble even be­neath the sur­face.The ma­chine is de­ployed ev­ery cou­ple of weeks.

The fish can stay in the pen dur­ing clean­ing and they seem not to mind the low hum of the ma­chine, feed­ing again within an hour.

Loch Duart also has sev­eral sites ded­i­cated to its unique brood­stock pro­gramme - one sea site, one fresh­wa­ter hatch­ery for egg strip­ping, the main hatch­ery at Duart­more (run­ning into the fresh­wa­ter Loch Duart, af­ter which the busi­ness and brand are named) and a fresh­wa­ter loch site for parr at Loch Na Thuill.

The brood­stock are ini­tially ear­marked from pro­duc­tion pens that are do­ing well, and the team bring in ex­per­tise from the Fish Vet Group to as­sist in se­lect­ing the best fish, ul­tra­sound­ing them to check for mat­u­ra­tion.

‘A lot of our sites are start­ing to look dif­fer­ent,’ said Wade. Most sites now have 24m squares or cir­cu­lar pens.

She has been at Loch Duart for 15 years. From Mid­dles­brough, she stud­ied marine bi­ol­ogy at Liver­pool and worked for a marine con­ser­va­tion NGO in Viet­nam, de­vel­op­ing MPAs, then moved to Malaysia to re­search poly­cul­ture sys­tems.

Her ex­pe­ri­ences in Asia in­tro­duced her to the world of aqua­cul­ture and, by chance, she made con­tact with some­one com­ing back to work at Loch Duart.

She started work for the com­pany as a lab tech­ni­cian and was in the fish health team for nine years be­fore mov­ing into pro­duc­tion, as pro­duc­tion con­troller, then be­com­ing area man­ager and, this year, op­er­a­tions man­ager.

She dots around the sites, see­ing most of the farm­ing teams sev­eral times a week, and holds reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion catch-up meet­ings with the seven farm man­agers.

‘The good thing about be­ing a rel­a­tively small com­pany is if we have ideas they can be acted on quickly,’ she said.

Above: Loch Duart op­er­a­tions man­ager Hazel Wade Op­po­site top: Bad­call Bay site man­ager Robert Shaw Op­po­site be­low: As­sis­tant site man­ager Garry Trot­ter and his son Owen

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