Marine Harvest plans

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DATA collection by Marine Harvest shows that further deep water sites in the Southern Isles could become part of the fish farm company’s £40 million expansion programme.

Two sites – at Hellisay, off Barra’s north west coast and Stulaigh, south of Loch Eynort, South Uist – are already the subject of planning applications. But four others sites are also in strong contention and currently subject to further investigation or proposed equipment trials to test wave height/wind strength exposure, depth and current. These sites are at Pabbay, Mingulay, Eriskay and Gighay.

The development of these deep water sites in the Minch is a first in Scotland but a concept that is well tested in Norway and Canada.

If the Sound of Hellisay site gets the go ahead, Marine Harvest plan to create six full time jobs and two seasonal post to work 16 cages producing 2,400 tonnes of salmon. Because Marine Harvest has no existing presence in Barra they plan to outsource a shorebase and fitter and electrician services locally.

The proposed Stulaigh site, meanwhile, comprises siting a dozen 100m circumference cages to produce 2,500 tonnes of fish. It is anticipated this development will create four new jobs and utilise an existing Marine Harvest shorebase for support.

Pabbay and Mingulay have, according to Marine Harvest, scored well for exposure and depth but require further work on sea current conditions. At Pabbay it is currently proposed to trial equipment while further information is being sought at Mingulay.

Four additional sites at Pabbay South, Stulaigh South, Berneray and Lingay have all been red lighted on exposure and there are no current plans to investigate them further.

Monitoring of the proposed sites and negotiations with the Crown Estate and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar mean it is now thought no work will commence before the end of 2012.

The Marine Harvest expansion comes as a result of an eight per cent per annum growth in sales of Scottish salmon, and major new demand thanks to a historic trade agreement with China permitting imports of the fish.

And with an estimated 190,000 tonne under-supply recorded for 2010, the need for expansion is growing, according to industry commentators.

A spokesman for Marine Harvest said the demand is global and it is hoped that by the end of next year all the necessary permissions will be in place.

Marine harvest currently produce 20,000 tonnes of salmon per annum and have an eye on capturing a share of the global under-supply of salmon.