Scot­land’s first ocean farm

Salmon farmer plans first ocean farm for Scot­land

Fish Farmer - - Contents - Be­low: Jim Gal­lagher Above: Ocean Farm 1

ANORWEGIAN style ocean farm ca­pa­ble of hold­ing 1.25 mil­lion fish could be sited off the coast of Scot­land if one of the coun­try’s lead­ing farm­ers re­ceives ap­proval for its plans. Scot­tish Sea Farms is look­ing to trial Scot­land’s first open ocean farm if it gets the go ahead from reg­u­la­tors, the com­pany an­nounced ear­lier this month.

It be­lieves grow­ing fish in ‘con­sid­er­ably deeper, more ex­posed wa­ters’ will en­able it to ex­pand pro­duc­tion sus­tain­ably to meet grow­ing de­mand for Scot­tish farmed salmon.

Sev­eral po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions have been iden­ti­fied, said the Nor­we­gian owned pro­ducer, although it would not dis­close fur­ther de­tails.

It did say, how­ever, that its new farm­ing con­cept could be at least two miles from the shore and would en­com­pass ‘all-new tech­nolo­gies’ de­signed specif­i­cally for more ex­posed con­di­tions.

Pro­vid­ing the multi-mil­lion pound in­vest­ment needed to de­velop such a farm would be Scot­tish Sea Farms’ owner, Norskott Havbruk, which is a 50/50 joint ven­ture be­tween Lerøy Seafood Group and Sal­Mar.

Sal­Mar de­vel­oped the world’s first off­shore fish farm – Ocean Farm 1, which is an­chored in the Trøn­de­lag re­gion of cen­tral Nor­way – in 2017 (see box).

The £60 mil­lion, 110m x 68m struc­ture is equipped with pi­o­neer­ing off­shore tech­nol­ogy, and re­ported a strong first har­vest, with high sur­vival, high qual­ity and con­sis­tently low lice lev­els mean­ing no de­lous­ing treat­ments were nec­es­sary.

The Scot­tish pro­posal has al­ready won the back­ing of Scot­land’s ru­ral econ­omy min­is­ter, Fer­gus Ewing.

‘This is ex­actly the kind of land­mark in­ward in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity that Scot­land needs to thrive and grow, and I am de­ter­mined that we seize that op­por­tu­nity,’ he said.

‘The po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of farm­ing in deeper, more ex­posed lo­ca­tions have been raised many times over re­cent years, by all sides of the de­bate.

‘So to see Scot­tish Sea Farms step for­ward and com­mit the time and in­vest­ment in­volved in ex­plor­ing that po­ten­tial here is hugely wel­come news.

‘Such a con­cept, if re­alised, prom­ises sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances in fish wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, not for­get­ting new jobs and busi­ness for Scot­land, and as such it is some­thing that the Scot­tish govern­ment is keen to progress in part­ner­ship with the rel­e­vant reg­u­la­tory and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.’

The pro­posed ocean farm would be Scot­tish Sea Farms’ sec­ond size­able cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in re­cent years, fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion in 2019 of the com­pany’s £58 mil­lion Bar­cal­dine RAS (re­cir­cu­lat­ing aqua­cul­ture sys­tem) hatch­ery, which aims to grow more ro­bust smolts bet­ter able to with­stand en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

“Such a con­cept, if re­alised, prom­ises sig­nif­i­cant ad­vances in fish wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion”

If the con­cept for Scot­land’s first ocean farm is ap­proved, it would be stocked at a level deemed vi­able by the Scot­tish En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (Sepa), said the com­pany. Sal­Mar’s Ocean Farm 1 stocks around 1.25 mil­lion fish.

Scot­tish Sea Farms’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jim Gal­lagher said: ‘We put a great deal of time and care into iden­ti­fy­ing the best farm­ing lo­ca­tions, both in terms of find­ing the op­ti­mum grow­ing con­di­tions and en­sur­ing that the lo­cal ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment can nat­u­rally sus­tain such ac­tiv­ity.

‘Over re­cent years, the scope of this work has widened to in­clude the po­ten­tial of more ex­posed lo­ca­tions; lo­ca­tions that could add to the vol­umes of salmon grown at our ex­ist­ing 42-strong farm­ing es­tate.

‘For this am­bi­tion to be re­alised, how­ever, we need an en­gaged, ro­bust and for­ward think­ing reg­u­la­tory frame­work that en­ables Scot­land’s salmon farm­ers to con­tinue grow­ing in a re­spon­si­ble man­ner and helps the sec­tor re­claim its com­pet­i­tive­ness on the world stage.

‘With this in mind, we’re ea­ger to take the next step by open­ing the di­a­logue with Ma­rine Scot­land, Sepa and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to see if this am­bi­tion is matched and if our as­pi­ra­tion of pilot­ing a full-scale ‘ocean farm’ can be re­alised.’

Chair­man of Scot­tish Sea Farms and Nor­we­gian owner Norskott Havbruk, Leif Inge Nord­ham­mer, said: ‘Both Lerøy Seafood Group and Sal­Mar are ready to give their back­ing to this lat­est in­vest­ment and we look for­ward to work­ing with the Scot­tish govern­ment and reg­u­la­tors to see whether, to­gether, we can make it hap­pen.’

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