Two Scottish aquaculture companies are behind the deal that will see all sites in Loch Roag simultaneously fallowed for the first time in 25 years. This new regime extends the fallow period which will be repeated at the end of every production cycle. Salmon farms are to be relocated to deeper sites with stronger tides, further away from river mouths.
As with land based farming when crops are rotated, fallowing in the marine environment has a similar restorative effect on the seabed.
Site ExchangeLighthouse Caledonia Ltd and Hebridean Salmon Co. Ltd are to exchange sites, to ensure the optimum utilisation of each location. Lighthouse Caledonia Ltd will thus transfer three farms to Hebridean Salmon for growing shellfish, receiving in return three salmon sites. Of these, one will be retained and two smaller sites converted into a larger unit. The total production in the area will now be maintained in fewer sites.
The agreement has been supported by the Scottish Government fish farm relocation scheme, which funded environmental assessments and seabed surveys for site applications.
OddGeir Oddsen, Managing Director of Lighthouse Caledonia said that the Loch Roag system will become the envy of the aquaculture industry, stakeholders and environmentalists
"The deal goes beyond the objectives of the local Area Management Agreement We will operate an all fish in, all fish out policy, stocking all of our farms in the loch at the same time. Co-ordinated sea lice treatments and synchronised fallowing will bring further environmental benefits," he added
A similar regime, applied in Loch Fyne has proved very successful and the partners aim to build on this valuable experience.
Sid Patten, Chief Executive of Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation welcomes the new deal. "This innovative solution is a win-win situation for both parties as it will afford new opportunities for the sustainable development of aquaculture in Loch Roag. It is a great example of different stakeholders working together to generate benefits for the entire loch system," he said.
With fewer sites in use, operators can make improvements in environmental and production performance which have not been possible before. SSPA believes the scheme has the potential to increase the profitability of Scottish aquaculture and its level of sustainability - which also has a market value.
Salmon farming injects more £16 million directly into local pay packets in the Western Isles and Highland regions.