A CONCERNED charity has called for all fish farm proposals to be rejected after thousands of salmon escaped from damaged pens off Arran this month.

After tens of thousands of fish died and more escaped from the storm-damaged North Carradale farm on the west coast of the island, The Community of Arran Seabed Trust slammed proposals for another on the Arran’s east coast.

The Scottish Salmon Company has asked for permission to install a 20 pen farm off Millstone Point, which is pending consideration having been told to reduce the scale.

Andrew Binnie, COAST manager, said: “COAST is very concerned about the latest salmon escapes from Mowi’s fish farm at Carradale.

“The fact that nearly 50,000 salmon escaped and 30,000 died demonstrates the need for a complete rethink of this industry which is endangering our already vulnerable native salmon stocks.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Proposed site of the Scottish Salmon Company farm.Proposed site of the Scottish Salmon Company farm.

“The so called Scottish Salmon Company’s proposal – there is nothing very Scottish about it’s ownership – for a mega fish farm off Arran’s beautiful and unspoilt north coast should be withdrawn immediately in our view. No further proposals for open-cage fish farms in the Clyde should be considered.

“These should be seen for what they are: factory farms, using our seas as an open sewer at the expense of our environment.”

Councillor Anthony Gurney said: “My general opinion regarding the often poor conditions of the farms and the subsequent damage to the local ecology is well known. Any application would have to ensure that it did not impact on Arran’s local flora and fauna and, particularly, that it did not adversely impact the Arran marine protected area. That is a high bar.”

Councillor Timothy Billings said: “The escape of almost 50,000 farmed salmon is of enormous concern, and I have received comments from both environmental and fishing groups highlighting the long-term detrimental effects this escape could have on our native west coast wild salmon. Salmon escapes, which are often on a massive scale, are yet another serious environmental concern about this industry, to which the Scottish government appears to be oblivious. I cannot comment on the proposals for a new fish farm off the north coast of Arran as I am a member of North Ayrshire’s planning committee, however, environmental concerns will need to be addressed.”

A spokesperson from The Scottish Salmon Company said: “We have consulted extensively with the local community and North Ayrshire Council on our proposed North Arran site.

“The proposed development will bring economic and social benefit to Arran in a time of economic uncertainty through increased jobs and local investment.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: A farmed fish caught in an Ayrshire river. Credit: Ayrshire Rivers TrustA farmed fish caught in an Ayrshire river. Credit: Ayrshire Rivers Trust

A Mowi spokesperson said: “We accept our responsibility to eliminate fish escapes from our farms and take this very seriously and regret the damage caused to our farm by Storm Ellen. Salmon aquaculture is an important business in the Highlands and Islands and food provider nationally, and has evolved significantly over the past 50 years with new equipment now enabling farmers to explore areas never before accessible. These new exposed regions are good for growing salmon and are far removed from more sensitive, near-shore areas.

“However, this new territory also presents strong tides and rough seas that can create new challenges for farmers, and so the learnings experienced at Carradale will be rapidly incorporated into our business for future planning.”

“We recognise the financial loss to the company, damage to salmon in our care, and reputational issues, but we ask that this is proportionally balanced against our role as a healthy food producer and major employer of dedicated staff throughout Scotland. We would again like to thank the Community of Carradale for its support during this unprecedented recovery operation and reaffirm our commitment to work with local fisheries organisations to assess and monitor the fate of any escaped salmon.”