Appeal submitted for “transformational” aquaculture project

Loch Long Salmon today confirmed that they have submitted an appeal for their proposed Beinn Reithe project near Arrochar, which was initially rejected by the Board of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park in October 2022.

Loch Long Salmon are disappointed that Officers and the Board of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park opposed the plans and believe the decision was fundamentally flawed and based on fear and a misunderstanding of the technology and its potential to transform the Scottish aquaculture sector.

If approved, the semi-closed containment farm at Beinn Reithe near Arrochar would not only deliver high-skilled jobs and contribute to the Circular Economy.  The project would also demonstrate the commercial viability of this farming system and place the area at the forefront of sustainable economic growth, while overcoming environmental concerns about existing salmon farming techniques.

The plans are supported by the closest community council and a cross-party group of Councillors, MSPs and the local MP.  The Scottish Government has said it believes the project is of “national significance” and the technology being proposed is endorsed by environmental groups such as the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust.

Loch Long Salmon believes the National Park Board failed to sufficiently and correctly consider the opinions of SEPA, Forestry and Land Scotland, NatureScot and the Arrochar Community Council who all believe the project can proceed.

Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director of Loch Long Salmon, said:

“We believe the National Park’s decision to prevent this proven, transformative technology being brought to Scotland for the first time was based on fear and a lack of knowledge and understanding.”

“The National Park has no experience of handling this kind of application and, rather than listening to experts such as NatureScot, SEPA and Forestry & Land Scotland, who all said the project could go ahead, they based their view on a misunderstanding that our plans were the same as existing open net salmon farms.  This is fundamentally flawed.”

“Through the appeal process, we are committed to demonstrating that we can bring positive change to Scotland, radically improve the environmental performance of salmon farming and secure jobs in rural areas.” 

“We carefully sited and designed the farm with the full collaboration of the Park’s planning team and, as a result, the farm can’t even be seen from more than 99% of the Park.  Officers also used concerns regarding theoretical impacts on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) more than 55km away from the development in justifying the decision to refuse the application.  This was contrary to the expert advice from NatureScot who confirmed the project could safely proceed.”

From the surface a semi-closed containment site looks like a traditional salmon farm, but underneath the water, the net is surrounded by an impermeable membrane, with water drawn up and circulated from deeper in the Loch.

This removes the threat of sea lice and attacks by seals, meaning it won’t ever use sea lice treatments or acoustic devices that can harm dolphins or other cetaceans.  Hundreds of cycles of this technology in other countries have proven these facts, as well as showing no escapes, addressing a further and legitimate concern around the aquaculture sector.


National Park say proposed salmon farm is “of national significance to Scotland”

The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park are seeking to stop plans to bring a transformative salmon farm to Loch Long despite agreeing that it is “of national significance to Scotland” (8.44) and knowing it is supported by a host of national bodies, elected local representatives and the host Community Council.

Despite this, National Park Officers have recommended the Park Board refuse Loch Long Salmon’s plans for Scotland’s first semi-closed containment technology Salmon farm in Loch Long.

The company behind the plans say they believe this approach goes against one of the key aims of the Park’s own Partnership Plan to, “address national priorities and achieve benefits for Scotland beyond the National Park boundaries”.

The Benn Reithe project has been supported by an unprecedented array of MPs, MSPs, Councillors, communities and local people.(see Notes to Editors)

Loch Long Salmon have highlighted examples where National Park Officers seem to dismiss advice from national bodies and international experts including:

  • The report says the development will impact the Endrick Water Special Area of Conservation (SAC), despite NatureScot stating “the proposal could be progressed with mitigation” which the company have agreed to. (5.2.2)
  • SEPA saying there had “No objections to the proposed development and no consentability concerns” (5.5.1)
  • NatureScot said there would be “no adverse impacts to marine mammals” (5.2.5)
  • The report refers to the technology as “experimental” (8.3.7), ignoring evidence from Dr. Asa Maria Espmark, Director of the internationally recognised CtrlAQUA research consortium, which shows semi-closed technology has been well proven to be operated with no sea lice treatments required and no escapes.
  • The Atlantic Salmon Trust say which says, “We recognise that this technology has been used successfully in other countries.”

Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director of Loch Long Salmon, said:

“The Scottish Government and the National Park have both said this project is of national significance.  It has the support of bodies such as SEPA, Forestry & Land Scotland and NatureScot; the local MP; a cross-party grouping of MSPs and Councillors; the host community council; and a range of local people and groups.”

“This transformative technology could have a positive environmental impact across Scotland by leading positive change in salmon farming, a critical food production sector and a vital part of our rural economy.”

“The technology has been proven for decades and has operated without any fish escapes over hundreds of production cycles.  It removes the threat of sea lice and the need for treatment, protecting the seabed, and will never require acoustic devices to deter seals.”

“Waste and uneaten food gathers at the bottom of the enclosure, is brought on shore and can be used as the basis for fertiliser or green energy, contributing to the Circular Economy while growing the lowest carbon animal protein in the world.”

“Loch Long is the ideal location for our demonstration site.  We are confident Board Members will see the benefits of this game-changing project, furthering the National Park’s goals by promoting sustainable business growth, creating jobs and supporting communities.”

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, National Park Partnership Plan. 2018-2023

Beinn Reithe site granted environmental licence

Plans for Scotland’s first semi-closed containment marine finfish farm have taken a further step forward, after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) granted an environmental permit for the farm.

Loch Long Salmon welcomed SEPA’s decision to issue the permit, for their proposed site at Loch Long at Beinn Reithe near Arrochar, which is the latest in a series of regulatory approvals required before the farm can be deployed, and comes after a two-year programme of surveys and modelling to demonstrate that the farm will not compromise the environmental quality of the Loch.

Uniquely, the company has not requested permission to use chemicals to treat sea lice, as the semi-closed farming system it will be deploying means lice cannot enter the pens, protecting the farmed fish as well as the wild fish in the Loch.  This distinguishes the farm from conventional open-net fish farms which must treat for the parasites with chemicals which are then discharged into the water.

Loch Long Salmon has thanked SEPA for the advice it provided to help the company understand the regulatory requirements applicable to the proposed semi-closed farming system and for how SEPA was quick to adapt its permit requirements to reflect the novel way the farm will operate. The approach taken by SEPA is aimed at helping to encourage innovation in the aquaculture sector.

The environmental permit allows Loch Long Salmon to deploy 5 enclosures of 140 m circumference, with a biomass limit of 3452 tonnes.  This set up has been approved by SEPA because over 85 % of waste and uneaten food is collected internally at the bottom of the enclosure to be brought ashore and treated. This reduces the environmental impact of the site, protecting the seabed and surrounding marine environment.

Stewart Hawthorn, Director of Loch Long Salmon, said:

“We are delighted SEPA has granted the CAR licence for our Beinn Reithe site in Loch Long, particularly for their thorough but helpful approach which will help bring semi-closed containment aquaculture to Scotland for the first time.”

“Semi-closed farming systems look much like conventional pens from above. But under the water they have an opaque, impermeable outer barrier that surrounds the fish net.”

“This farming system has been operating successfully in Norway since 2014 and is now being deployed in the Faroes and Canada, but this is the first time it will be used in Scotland.  This exemplar project provides an opportunity to show closer to home what is possible and to secure the future of the salmon farming industry in Scotland.  It will, reduce environmental impacts while continuing to support vital jobs and economies in rural Scotland.”

“With this SEPA licence, I hope the Planning Authority will act quickly to grant permission so that we can begin construction of this exciting project.”

SEPA’s vision is that the long-term success of the finfish aquaculture sector in Scotland will require the sector to become a world-leading innovator of ways to minimise the environmental footprint of food production and supply. To help and encourage innovation, as it has done with Loch Long Salmon, SEPA will work closely with developers to provide early, upfront advice on the regulatory requirements applicable to innovative farming systems and adapt its permitting framework to reflect the way those systems operate.

Following two Scottish Parliamentary inquiries and SEPA’s biggest ever public consultation, in 2019 the regulator introduced its Finfish Aquaculture Sector Plan and a Revised Regulatory Regime. Both were clear in their aspirations for a sector which recognises that protecting the environment is fundamental to its success and foremost in all its plans and operations, including through new innovations. The Plan is an evidence-based regulatory framework, aimed at maintaining full compliance with environmental protection laws while helping those investing in innovation and moving beyond compliance.

Jo Green, Acting Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:

 “As Scotland’s independent environmental regulator SEPA is ambitious in its aspirations for an aquaculture sector where operators recognise that protecting the environment is fundamental to their success and is foremost in all their plans and operations. We want Scotland to be a world-leading innovator of ways to minimise the environmental footprint of food production and supply, and for aquaculture operators to have a strong and positive relationship with neighbouring users of the environment and the communities in which they operate.

“SEPA’s revised regulatory regime aims to actively support innovation that drives environmental sustainability.  As such, semi-closed containment systems, such as that proposed by Loch Long Salmon, have the potential to play a significant role in enhanced sustainability through reduced medicine use and discharge. We will continue to encourage and support businesses across the sector to introduce environmentally innovative approaches to fish production.”

Loch Long Salmon has submitted a planning application to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority for determination in early in 2022, which would allow construction on the site to begin by the end of 2022.

First in Scotland for new aquaculture technology

Loch Long Salmon (LLS) has submitted a planning application to develop Scotland’s first semi-closed fish farm at Loch Long near Beinn Reithe in Argyll. Semi-closed fish farm technology excludes sea lice, catches most of the organic waste, and improves the health and welfare of the farmed stock.

While the Loch Long site would not be suitable or economical for conventional open net aquaculture due to its low current, it is ideal for Scotland’s first semi-closed farm due to its sheltered location, deep water, geographical isolation from other salmon farms, and proximity to a suitable shore base location.

LLS submitted the Planning Application to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Planning Authority on 8th October. It will now be assessed by the Planning Authority ahead of formal public notification and the official consultation process.

Stewart Hawthorn, Director, LLS, said:

“We are excited to be the first company bringing this transformative farming system to Scotland, and the Loch Long site provides the ideal environment for semi-closed aquaculture.  Our technology will allow salmon farming to thrive in Scotland’s rural coastal areas, such as Loch Long, with a significantly improved environmental and fish welfare performance.  We will be working closely with local stakeholders to demonstrate how the proposed farm will be good for the environment, good for the salmon and good for the local community.”

Semi-closed systems have been demonstrated to offer a range of benefits.  The conventional salmon farm net is completely enclosed by an impermeable and opaque marine fabric material.  This secondary barrier prevents sea lice from getting into the farm, stops seals from seeing the farmed fish and traps most of the salmon faeces and any uneaten feed.

The lack of medicinal or other treatments needed for sea lice has been shown to improve the welfare of the farmed fish overall, and to prevent breeding populations of lice establishing in the enclosures preventing retransmission to wild salmon and trout.  Semi-closed farms also do not require anti-seal nets or underwater acoustic seal scaring devices, and therefore have minimal impact on nearby marine wildlife including seals, dolphins, porpoises and whales.

The farm will also capture more than 85% of the organic waste that is produced.  This will be used as a fertiliser ingredient or in green energy production.  LLS will contribute to creating and building Scotland’s circular economy, by capturing and removing a waste material from the environment and using this as a valuable resource.

Mark Shotter, Project Manager, said:

“When I started working on this project it was immediately apparent to me that our fresh approach would bring so many positives to the table.  I have enjoyed working with stakeholders including SEPA and Marine Scotland as we have introduced the first semi-closed farming proposal to Scotland.  It has also been very positive to be talking to the local communities and the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority who would host our innovative, low-impact salmon farm.  By addressing the concerns many have about aquaculture, we believe that our farm would be a great fit for the area.”

The proposed farm will comprise four circular shaped marine farming enclosures each with an outer diameter of up to 50m and a square harvesting facility with a side length of up to 50m, all being semi-closed containment systems. These enclosures will sit in single file formation in an 80m x 80m mooring grid approximately 300m from the western bank of Loch Long.

The farm, which LLS hopes to be operational by 2023, will employ approximately 12 people comprising a mix of salmon farming and technical roles encompassing site management, farming and fish health technicians, site engineers and mechanics and a waste system specialist.

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