Storm Ellen: Argyll fish farm with 550,000 salmon breaks free

A typical salmon farm in Argyll off the West Coast of Scotland.

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland is reporting that a fish farm in Argyll containing about 550,000 salmon worth millions of pounds has broken free of its moorings in Storm Ellen.

Owner Mowi said it has temporarily secured the 10 pens at the North Carradale farm, near Campbeltown, after its seabed anchors became dislodged.

However, experts are warning  that if the fish complete their escape into the wild, they “are likely to run into the rivers of Argyll, the Firth of Clyde and Ayrshire in great numbers and, by spawning and breeding with wild Scottish salmon, severely impact the genetic integrity of our depleted native salmon populations.”

This means that potentially they could enter the Clyde, the Leven, Loch Lomond, the Fruin and the Endrick, all of which are fished by members of the Loch Lomond Angling Association.

Owner Mowi said it has temporarily secured the 10 pens at the North Carradale farm, near Campbeltown, after its seabed anchors became dislodged.

The firm said there are no reports of escapes at this stage.

However, environmental campaigners claim it is “highly likely” the integrity of the nets will have been “significantly compromised”.

Watchdog Marine Scotland has been informed and Mowi said it would conduct a full investigation once the storm has passed.

Andrew Graham-Stewart, director of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland, said: “It is highly likely that, free of their moorings, the integrity of the nets holding the salmon will have been significantly compromised, thus allowing the fish to escape.”

He said the consequences of such a large number of mature farmed salmon of Norwegian origin escaping into the environment were potentially “very serious”.

He added: “They are likely to run into the rivers of Argyll, the Firth of Clyde and Ayrshire in great numbers and, by spawning and breeding with wild Scottish salmon, severely impact the genetic integrity of our depleted native salmon populations.”

STOP PRESS:

However, on August 26, it was reported that the number of fish which actually escaped was 50,000.

Owner Mowi said inspections by divers revealed the breakage of mooring ropes attached to the farm’s seabed anchors was the cause.

Just over 30,000 of the farmed salmon also died as a result of the incident.

Mowi said it has sent the torn ropes to a testing facility in Aberdeen for further investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said it “shares concerns” regarding the loss of salmon.

She added: “Whilst we are confident that marine pens have been returned to their authorised position and there was no significant pollution, we are liaising with Mowi and Marine Scotland, who have responsibility for fish escapes and their reporting.”

The North Carradale farm contained 550,700 salmon before the four pens were damaged in bad weather on 20 August.

Mowi said a total of 48,834 salmon escaped, 30,616 died and a further 125,000 were harvested.

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about the escaped fish breeding with wild Scottish salmon.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: