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Marine / Proposed new £8m salmon farm would feature Shetland’s largest pens yet

The Fish Holm development, planned by Scottish Sea Farms, would include 200m circumference pens

Yell Sound. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

A NEW salmon farm is being proposed which would feature the largest pens ever used in Shetland.

Scottish Sea Farms’ proposed Fish Holm development in the waters between Mossbank and Lunna Ness, which could cost around £8 million, would feature up to 12 pens which would be 200m in circumference.

This would be the largest pens the company has ever used, with the producer only operating with sizes up to 160m.

To date, only Mowi uses 200m pens in Scotland, at a site in the Western Isles.

Although the size of the pens are large, Scottish Sea Farms said the new development – which would have a maximum permitted biomass of 6,000 tonnes – would consolidate four existing farms into one further offshore.

It would see farming consents for Hamnavoe (1,910t), Boatroom Voe (216t) – both currently fallow – and Collafirth (1,200t) consolidated into the neighbouring Fish Holm (1,910t) and a further 764t applied for.

While the tonnage would be greater, the company said the proposal would “reduce a total potential 29 salmon pens and three feed barges” to a maximum of 12 pens supported by one barge.

It is part of what appears to be a growing trend for Scottish Sea Farms consolidating its estate in Shetland.

Scottish Sea Farms is also proposing the Billy Baa farm near Weisdale Voe, which would have pens up to 160m in size. This would consolidate existing licences in that area.

Meanwhile Cooke Aquaculture – the only other salmon producer operating in Shetland – is also planning a new salmon farm with pens up to 120m in circumference off Vementry.

The company does not use pens as large as 200m.

Scottish Sea Farms said the new Fish Holm development would increase the space between pens, “maximising water exchange and oxygen levels”, and “boost fish health, welfare and survival”.

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The pens would have predator defence netting systems and pole-mounted top nets.

In addition to a feed barge stationed at Fish Holm, the farm would also be supported by the existing Setterness shore base.

The cost to Scottish Sea Farms of around £8 million – greater than the investment needed for a more traditional development – is reflective of the increase in the level and scale of technology required.

The development is also the first of two planning notifications – the other by Mowi to Highland Council – to help trial a new licensing and consenting process for salmon farms.

The company’s head of sustainability Anne Anderson. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

The trial follows an independent review by regulatory expert Professor Russel Griggs in 2022, commissioned by government, which found the current consenting and licensing process for aquaculture to be complex, with no joined up approach and, as such, was not working “as well as it could”.

As part of the trial, the pre-application process will see the two main consenting regimes – local authority planners and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – work together to review the submission in consultation with key stakeholders, rather than each body considering the applications separately, which is what currently happens.

Scottish Sea Farms said it has already been in discussion with Shetland Island Council, community councils and other marine users about the proposals.

There will also be two public consultation events for the wider community which will include details of the proposed development and the opportunity for discussion.

These are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday 21 February, 3pm to 7pm – Voe Public Hall
  • Thursday 4 April, 3pm to 7pm – Vidlin Hall

Scottish Sea Farms’ head of sustainability Anne Anderson said the new planning trial should “pave the way for a swifter decision once the formal application has been submitted”.

Speaking about the proposed Fish Holm farm, she added: “We’re keen to talk local communities through our proposal, which is to consolidate four separate consents into one farm of 6,000 tonnes, which is a modest increase of 764 tonnes overall.”

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