SNP - Tom Wills

Marine / Plans in for Fetlar salmon farm

One of Cooke Aquaculture's salmon farms, off Hascosay between Yell and Fetlar. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

PLANS have been submitted for a new 12-cage salmon farm off Fetlar.

Cooke Aquaculture is keen to create a farm at the Wick of Gruting, with the equipment required estimated to cost over £2 million.

The company said in an application to Shetland Islands Council’s planing service that the development would create four new full-time jobs.

The farm would consist of 12 x 120m circumference circular cages arranged in two lots of six.

The maximum proposed biomass would be around 2,500ft, with the grid size 70m.

It would be serviced from the existing Uyeasound pier in Unst by a 200t capacity Sea-Cap barge.

Smolts would be delivered via a well boat and fish would be harvested dead haul and landed at Cullivoe in Yell.

An environmental impact assessment has already been carried out to examine the possible effects of the salmon farm.

Regarding the impact on protected species and habitats, the report said: “Providing that certain conditions are adhered to (agreed through consultation with SNH and other statutory consultees), the development is unlikely to have a significant environmental impact in this respect.

“Good fish husbandry practices; the use of equipment of a design suitable to site conditions, and the use of a graded predator defence policy, are also strategies that will ensure impacts to species or habitats of conservation importance are kept to a minimum.”

It adds that in the “event of a lice infestation it is the preference of Cooke Aquaculture Scotland in the first instance to treat stock with a dedicated hydrolicer unit which is based in Mid Yell”.

“As an alternative, the in feed treatment Slice (emamectin benzoate) and bath treatments via tarpaulin or well boat delivery are also available to Cooke Aquaculture Scotland should the appropriate discharge licences be granted,” it continues.

The environmental impact assessment said that mortalities would be removed by dive teams and/or dead baskets that are secured at the bottom of each cage and are lifted by using a net hauler.

“Following the input of smolts, mortality removal will be on a twice weekly basis and will reduce to weekly removals thereafter,” it adds.

“Daily mortality levels can be monitored on a daily basis by in-situ underwater cameras, and additional mortality removals can be conducted if required.”

In response to the planning application, Scottish Natural Heritage said that there are “interests of national and international importance on the site, but in our view these will not be adversely affected by the proposal”.

It noted that the farm is within the Fetlar Special Protection Area, which is classified for birds like red-necked phalarope, whimbrel and dunlin.

It also lies within the Fetlar to Haroldswick Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area.

Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation said some concerns had been raised from fishermen about how “exposed” the site is and what would happen to shellfish and whitefish stocks should anything happen in storm conditions.

It said it had no objection to the application provided that trip ropes are moved from anchors after a few weeks and the site is adequately marked and lit for navigational safety.

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