A list of questions - and our answers - about the proposed salmon mega-farm at Lurignish on Loch Linnhe. If your question is not answered below, please feel free to get in touch.
A giant salmon mega-farm, the largest salmon farm in Scotland, using new, untested and intrusive technology, on a pristine stretch of loch shore between the communities of Appin and Duror/Kentallen.
The proposed mega-farm is on a wholly different and industrial scale, and comes with an industrial estate’s worth of support facility on the loch shore. A million fish or more are to be crammed into each of up to 8 huge floating pens which are much more visible than conventional farms.
The proposal includes water tanks, salmon feed silos, oxygen tanks, treatment plants, desalination plants, office buildings, diesel generators, diesel storage tanks and a fish mortality handling station, operating 24 hours a day all year round.
As well as visually intrusive, this will inevitably lead to light, noise and odour pollution. The plant will need constant servicing by additional heavy goods vehicles on the main Oban - Fort William A828 road.
The mega-farm uses “semi-closed” technology, still in its experimental stage, in an attempt to reduce sea lice infections and the immediate environmental impact of the farm from fish poo. Note that waste extraction has no operational verified data for these cages. This technology – keeping the fish in nets surrounded by giant plastic bags - has never been tried at this scale or in Scottish conditions, so this is a giant experiment in our loch.
If it goes seriously wrong, the sheer numbers of fish mean there is the potential for a catastrophic impact on the loch environment and on the many local tourism related businesses.
Scottish wild salmon numbers are dwindling alarmingly, at least in part due to pressure from fish farm developments. Astonishingly, the proposed mega-farm is located on a known wild salmon migratory route within one of the new wild salmon protection zones proposed by SEPA.
Although the new technology is supposed to limit escapes of farmed fish, the sheer numbers mean that only a tiny fraction of escapees would present a significant challenge for the remaining wild salmon population.
Most significantly, the fact that the semi closed system can only grow the salmon to 500g-1kg means that all surviving fish will then have to go to open nets to achieve harvest size (5-6kg), thus ADDING to the existing open nets threat to the wild salmon population.
It remains to be seen how the new technology does at reducing sea lice in a mega-farm of this size – this is an experiment.
To be financially viable the mega-farm proposes cramming in fish three times more tightly than the RSPCA’s Assured standard, so that even with fewer lice there is the likelihood of stressed fish more prone to fin damage and lesions. The system cannot eliminate pathogens, and any outbreak of disease could rapidly spread through the entire stock.
Even if the new waste extraction technology works as proposed by the prospective developer, the residual poo from so many fish is roughly equivalent to that from the entire population of Oban, entering the loch untreated at one location. Any “benefit” is therefore nullified by the sheer scale of the farm.
There is no attempt to capture the pee from the millions of fish; high levels of fish pee risk causing or exacerbating algal blooms dangerous to the fish themselves, to wildlife and human loch users.
In conclusion, the proposal to use this system at such scale means that there will be no benefits; instead there will be huge additional pressures on the environment.
The proposer has yet to submit any evidence that the mega-farm is sustainable or carbon neutral, taking account of all the hidden costs such the fish feed production, huge lorries travelling large distances with waste, mortalities, oxygen and feed, flying the fish to eg US and China and the energy costs of running all the supporting plant.
Fish farming is a significant and welcome local employer. However, modern fish farms employ very few non-specialist workers and it is likely that the number of local jobs will be tiny compared with those (or even the current unfilled vacancies) in local tourism related businesses. We await more information being published about the likely skill sets required for this proposed development.
The proposed location is a pristine stretch of shore currently zoned as “countryside” in the local development plan and a stone’s throw from Lynn of Lorn National Scenic Area. This area of the loch supports a host of thriving tourism-based businesses, and is used for recreation by swimmers, snorkellers, kayakers, paddleboarders, sailors and fishermen. It’s on a known wild salmon migratory route, and in an area rich with wildlife whether on, in or beside the loch.
We at Long Live Loch Linnhe are not opposed to all development or to fish farms. But for all these reasons the proposed mega-farm is, in our view, wholly inappropriate for this location.
The next step is for the proposers (Loch Long Salmon) to follow up their "Scoping request" to the local council (Argyll & Bute) of November 2022 with a formal planning application. In advance of the application, they will be holding meetings open to the local communities in Appin and Duror/Kentallen at which they will present their case - see news items on community consultation dates in Duror and Appin.
Once the planning application is in, we strongly recommend that anyone who objects to the plans submits formal objections to Argyll & Bute council, as well as contacting their own councillors and MSPs - we'll have full contact details on our website shortly.
The development is proposed by a consortium of companies none of whom have significant experience in using this experimental technology. Only one individual seems to have dated experience within the salmon farming industry.
We are a group of ordinary people, living and working in the local area or with family connections to the area, brought together by our common concerns about this mega-farm proposal. We're volunteers, working in our own time, relying on donations from individual supporters to cover costs. Find out more on the About us page.
Paddle boarders on Loch Linnhe. Image courtesy Cath Bufton