Highland Council refuses salmon farm’s request for permanency
The Highland Council has refused an application by the Scottish Salmon Company to remove a planning condition limiting their permission to operate a salmon farm at Sgeir Dughall to 10 years only. This is a major win for environmental campaigners, who strongly believe that salmon farming causes untold damage to the declining wild stocks of salmon and sea trout.
The Highland Council granted a time-limited planning permission for the controversial 2,500 tonne fish farm in Upper Loch Torridon in 2012, but placed a 10 year limit on it because of serious concerns over the impact that the farm could have on local wild salmon and sea trout populations.
There are already four other existing farms in Loch Torridon supporting a maximum biomass of 4,000 tonnes of salmon. There is strong evidence that these farms have heavily impacted the salmon and trout populations in local wild fisheries including the rivers Torridon, Balgy and Shieldaig.
Fish Legal drafted a detailed response on behalf of Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board to the fish farmer's application. The letter robustly pointed out that in the short time the Sgeir Dughall farm has been operating, the farmer has failed to control sea lice numbers effectively, creating a huge additional risk to local wild salmon and sea trout. Sea lice attach onto wild fish passing by fish farms, eating into their flesh, making them prone to infections and disease which can eventually kill them. Wild fish stocks have declined throughout the West Coast of Scotland where fish farming takes place. This was a point taken on board by Highland's planning officer who commented in the Planning Report "nothing substantive has changed to warrant removal of the condition; if anything the information to date suggests a stronger case for its retention".
Robert Younger, Fish Legal Solicitor, said:
"We are delighted that Highland Council is adopting a precautionary approach and have refused the application to remove the 10 year limit condition. Its retention will allow for the implementation of a monitoring regime that will allow the impact of the farm to be much better understood. This will be vital should there be an application to renew permission in 10 years’ time. It also means that the Scottish Salmon Company has not been give ‘carte blanche’ to go on damaging our precious wild stocks indefinitely."