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Marine / Plans for more tunnels emerge, but not the way you think

An artist’s image of Norwegian Mountain Salmon’s propels for the Utsira site.

THE VOLUME of salmon production in Shetland could potentially double over coming years should an ambitious plan by a Norwegian fish farming company come to fruition.

Norwegian Mountain Salmon (NMS) is pioneering the concept of housing large salmon production inside mountain tunnels.

The company has plans for a 25,000 tonne underground salmon farm on the island of Utsira off the southwest coast of Norway, but is also looking at sites on the isle of Lewis and in Shetland.

While the site in the Western Isles has been named as Mealista in the Uig area of Lewis, the company’s ambitions for Shetland are more of a mystery.

When approached by Shetland News, NMS’ chief executive Bård Nikolai Hjelmen said he was not in a position to comment.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have any comments to provide regarding a potential location in Shetland at the moment,” he said.

But more about the project is expected to be announced over coming weeks, he added.

What is known is that NMS is looking to invest as much as £600 million to produce between 80,000 and 90,000 tonnes of salmon underground at the Lewis site with fish being held in large tanks linked to sea water by a network of pipes.

The company says construction could start as early as 2028 and promises the creation of highly skilled job plus local housing.

A presentation given by the company last month describes the key environmental advantages of the project as follows:

  • No sea lice
  • No fish escapes
  • Separate biological zones
  • Effective treatment systems
  • Advanced monitoring
  • Optimal water quality
  • 70 per cent sludge filtration

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Locals in Lewis, however, have voiced the suspicion that a potential Shetland site has been brought into play to counteract any opposition there might be in Lewis.

Hjelmen said should the company choose the Shetland site for its project than the capacity would be smaller due to the anticipated geology.

He told “In both areas, there are rock types suitable for tunnel and cavern construction. However, on Shetland, the area where good rock is expected to be found with high certainty is smaller.

“Nonetheless, specific investigations will need to be conducted at both locations before the quality of the rock is precisely known. But the geological foundation is good for both locations.

“In general, tunnels and caverns can be built in almost any type of rock, but the development cost is significantly different in poor-quality rock, considering expenses such as rock bolting (rock stabilisation) and grouting.”

Growing salmon on land in large tanks to reduce the environmental impact of fish farming and to have better control over the production process is already be pioneered in Norway by companies such as Salmon Evolution.

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