News / Salmon cage tow snaps again

EFFORTS to retrieve 12 huge salmon cages after they drifted 60 miles out to sea from Shetland were further hampered on Tuesday when a tow line snapped for the second time in two days.

The company Meridian Salmon Group, which owns the 30 metre diameter cages, is now looking at separating them so they can tow them in more easily.

Four boats are now assisting with the rescue, which began after the cages were spied by a government fish patrol aircraft last Friday.

The Danish tug Westsund has been chartered to tow the cages, which contained 1,000 tonnes of fully grown salmon when they loosed their moorings off the isle of Unst during the Christmas Day gales.

However progress has been extremely slow and the cages remain 60 miles east of the isle of Bressay, where they were first seen at the end of last week.

On Tuesday afternoon the Shetland fishing boat Opportune, which has been monitoring the cages since last week, took one of them under tow and hopes to reach Dales Voe, north of Lerwick, by Thursday evening.


Meanwhile the Westsund is standing by the remaining 11 cages, two of which are submerged, accompanied by another Shetland whitefish trawler Devotion and the Orkney fish farm well boat Orcadia.

A coastguard spokesman said the company planned to reconnect the towline at first light.

Meridian Salmon Group managing director Mark Warrington said that if the weather offshore improved, they would consider separating the cages to make it easier to tow them individually.

“It is very complicated because there are ropes, nets and moorings and all sorts involved under the water line,” he said.

“All we can do is get this as close to sheltered waters as we possibly can, into conditions where it is easier to handle them.”

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The loss of the cages will be a major expense for the company. It has only been able to insure the fish themselves, which had a sales value of around £3 million. It is unlikely many of the fish will have survived the ordeal.

However Mr Warrington said the company was committed to fish farming in Unst, which he said was the only place in Shetland where the company did not have a problem with sea lice.

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