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Mowi plans to close salmon farms in Loch Ewe and Loch Duich and transfer their operations to waters off the Small Isles of Muck and Rum

By Staff Reporter

A salmon farm off the Isle of Muck, with Eigg in the distance. Supplied picture.
A salmon farm off the Isle of Muck, with Eigg in the distance. Supplied picture.

SALMON farms which have drawn fire over their environmental impact and sea lice infestations look set to be closed permanently and relocated further out to sea.

Mowi, whose sites include the fish farms at Loch Ewe and Loch Duich, has announced plans to relocate those Wester Ross operations to new sites off the Small Isles.

The proposed move, which the firm said would involve “more appropriate” open water locations, comes amid increasing controversy over the impact that fish farming has on wild salmon and the environment.

Loch Duich hit the headlines in October 2014 when it was revealed that each of the farm’s fish was infested with an average of more than 40 lice. And, in 2017, figures released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) confirmed that anti-sea lice pesticide levels – recorded between 2006 and 2016 – broke environmental standards at 45 different farms, including Duich and Ewe.

Mowi said it was now looking to move the two operations, owing to “the enclosed nature of the sea lochs” as well as the fish farms’ “proximity to sensitive wild salmonid habitats”.

Ben Hadfield, Mowi Scotland’s managing director, added: “The sites will be closed permanently conditional to the support from our regulatory system to transfer the biomass to other locations, and to sustainably expand our production in the best possible areas for salmon farming thus protecting the associated jobs.”

Bill Whyte, convener for Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board, welcomed the “acknowledgement” that enclosed sea lochs near sensitive wild salmonid habitats can have a local impact on stocks, adding that the board “would be prepared to support biomass relocation on a conditional basis” subject to evidence the new sites will reduce the impact on wild fish.

Mr Hadfield, meanwhile, said Mowi had assured affected staff that their jobs “can continue” at other new or expanded locations, adding: “Our ambition is to close contentious locations, jointly working with wild fishery managers.

“Success for this relocation initiative will be a net increase in production, a net increase in export value for Scotland and a net reduction in our environmental footprint at sensitive locations.”

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