Appeal submitted for Loch Lomond aquaculture project

Appeal submitted for Loch Lomond aquaculture project

A diagram of semi-closed aquaculture technology by FiiZK that would be used by Loch Long Salmon (Image credit: FiiZK)

A salmon producer has submitted an appeal for its proposed Beinn Reithe aquaculture project near Arrochar.

Loch Long Salmon said it was “disappointed” that officers and the board of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park opposed the plans in October 2022 and believe the decision was fundamentally flawed and based on fear and a misunderstanding of the technology and its potential to transform the Scottish aquaculture sector.

If approved, the semi-closed containment farm at Beinn Reithe near Arrochar would not only deliver high-skilled jobs and contribute to the circular economy, the company said. The project would also demonstrate the commercial viability of this farming system and place the area at the forefront of sustainable economic growth, while overcoming environmental concerns about existing salmon farming techniques.

The plans are supported by the closest community council and a cross-party group of councillors, MSPs and the local MP. The Scottish Government has said it believes the project is of “national significance” and the technology being proposed is endorsed by environmental groups such as the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.

Loch Long Salmon believes the National Park Board failed to sufficiently and correctly consider the opinions of SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland, NatureScot and the Arrochar Community Council who all believe the project can proceed.

Stewart Hawthorn, managing director of Loch Long Salmon, said: “We believe the National Park’s decision to prevent this proven, transformative technology being brought to Scotland for the first time was based on fear and a lack of knowledge and understanding.

“The National Park has no experience of handling this kind of application and, rather than listening to experts such as NatureScot, SEPA and Forestry & Land Scotland, who all said the project could go ahead, they based their view on a misunderstanding that our plans were the same as existing open net salmon farms. This is fundamentally flawed.

“Through the appeal process, we are committed to demonstrating that we can bring positive change to Scotland, radically improve the environmental performance of salmon farming and secure jobs in rural areas.

“We carefully sited and designed the farm with the full collaboration of the Park’s planning team and, as a result, the farm can’t even be seen from more than 99% of the Park. Officers also used concerns regarding theoretical impacts on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) more than 55km away from the development in justifying the decision to refuse the application. This was contrary to the expert advice from NatureScot who confirmed the project could safely proceed.”

From the surface, a semi-closed containment site looks like a traditional salmon farm, but underneath the water, the net is surrounded by an impermeable membrane, with water drawn up and circulated from deeper in the Loch.

This removes the threat of sea lice and attacks by seals, meaning it won’t ever use sea lice treatments or acoustic devices that can harm dolphins or other cetaceans. Hundreds of cycles of this technology in other countries have proven these facts, as well as showing no escapes, addressing a further and legitimate concern around the aquaculture sector.

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