Fish farm to be installed in middle of Loch Carron after Highland Council approved it despite fears raised by Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board over sea lice infestations
A LARGE fish farm is being planted in the middle of one of Ross-shire’s most scenic lochs after getting the go-ahead from Highland Council – despite the refusal of an “almost identical” proposal seven years ago for being too unsightly.
The north planning applications committee followed officials’ advice agreed the plan by the Scottish Salmon Company at West Strome, Lochcarron, for 16 circular pens each with a 100-metre circumference and an accompanying feed barge.
That was despite warnings from a local fishery board that it could cause a reduction in the salmon and trout population and sea lice “infestation”.
Acting head of development management Mark Harvey acknowledged there would be a “negative” impact on both local wild salmon and on the scenery but “none of these impacts is considered significant enough to justify a reason for refusal.”
The report said the fish farm’s prominence “is greatly moderated by the sheer scale of the landscape vista. The eye is not drawn to the fish farm feature but rather more to the middle and far distance”.
He said the “negative” impacts would be off-set to an extent by the reduction of six cages of a smaller fish farm on the same loch and any environmental impact could be reassessed over time.
The Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board said sea lice infestation at the existing site had already exceeded the code of good practice treatment thresholds during the last three winters.
It said in an objection that this pattern resulted in fewer salmon returning to the River Carron system subsequently.
But the applicant cited evidence from the Carron River Restoration Project – a scheme that is “partially funded by the applicant” – claiming that there is “evidence of a steadily growing population.”
Local councillor and Lochcarron village native Biz Campbell said the primary concern must be for the environment but that the wellbeing of the local economy was of vital importance too.
She said: “I was born and brought up in Lochcarron and I know that a lot of people there rely on local businesses like fish farming for their bread and butter. But some of the evidence here is contradictory, and the part about the Carron River restoration being funded was swept under the carpet – it is good that they are helping but it has to be clear.
“We as councillors rely on the evidence that is provided by these experts so Scottish Natural Heritage should be more robust.”