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Marine / Salmon farm company outlines £2m investment

Scottish Sea Farms barge Ronas Voe after being refurbished. Photo: Gordon Siegel Photography

A SALMON farm company is investing nearly £2 million to upgrade and improve its infrastructure in Shetland, and to boost its plans for enhanced fish welfare and survival.

Scottish Sea Farms’ programme of works will be carried out primarily by Scottish and local suppliers, and it will include:

  • Five feed barges being upgraded at Buckie-based Macduff Shipyards, at a total cost of £750,000
  • The workboat Scapa Lass undergoing a £415,000 refit, also at Macduff, ahead of its repurposing as a treatment support vessel
  • New pens and moorings worth £675,000 being installed at the company’s Bellister farm to bring it into line with recent refurbishments across the rest of the Shetland estate
  • Associated electrical and engineering support from Agmatek, Ocean Kinetics and the Shetland branch of ScaleAQ.

The investment follows a management restructuring in Shetland last year that saw Richard Darbyshire appointed Northern Isles regional manager.

Darbyshire, who alternates his working weeks between Shetland and Orkney, said there was now a more local focus which had already brought dividends.

“Decisions are being made quicker so we get resources when they are needed,” he said.

“As a result, sea lice numbers at the end of week 50 were half the levels of the corresponding week in 2019. And the fish were significantly bigger than the previous generation at the same stage two years ago.

“This is to everyone’s immense credit, given that the year was difficult due to Covid-19 restrictions. But we can’t be complacent and have ambitious targets to reach on fish survival, fish size and costs in 2021.”

The investment also comes after fellow salmon farming company Grieg Seafood signalled its intention to sell up its Shetland operations.

Engineering manager Keith Fraser said the barge upgrades involve blasting and repainting, as well as the fitting of cameras in the feed hoppers to assist remote feeding.

‘Health and safety standards are also being upgraded, with automatic fire-fighting equipment in the engine room, plus automatic bilge pumps and bilge alarms,” he added.

“This will enable the generator to start automatically if water enters the barge, providing 24-hour protection.”

The barges will come ashore throughout the year during fallow periods, with work on the Ronas Voe very recently completed.

In addition to the £2 million programme of works, all of the company’s Shetland’s marine pens now have SealPro anti-predator netting fitted along with sinker tubes to ensure nets are robustly tensioned.

A ban on the shooting of seals was recently introduced in Scotland.

Under previous regulations the shooting of seals by salmon farmers and other commercial fisheries interests was permitted under licence.

Scottish Sea Farms, meanwhile, aims to achieve 95 per cent fish survival and an average harvest weight of 5.5 kilos in 2021.