Aquaculture for all

Is Lewis set for a 90,000 tonne underground salmon farm?

Atlantic Salmon Land-based production systems +4 more

Plans to establish an underground salmon farm in a remote corner of the Isle of Lewis, in Scotland, have been revealed by the island’s main newspaper.

An impression of Norwegian Mountain Salmon's proposed site in Utsira, Norway

The company hopes to establish a farm with a similar design, but nearly four times the capacity in Lewis or Shetland © Norwegian Mountain Salmon

According to The Stornoway Gazette, Norwegian Mountain Salmon (NMS) envisages farming 90,000 tonnes of salmon annually at Mealista, near Uig.

Bård Hjelmen, chief executive of NMS told the paper that the concept is still at a very early stage and that they were also considering a site in Shetland as an alternative, with plans to finalise their desired location by the summer.

According to the paper, the proposed £581 million development, which could create up to 200 jobs, comes as a surprise to the islanders. However, Hjelmen said that the company has been in contact with the local authority and the owners of the site over the past year.

Plans for the site reveal that the company aims to start construction in 2027 and reach full capacity by 2033. Preliminary designs for the site consist of 224 tanks, each of 22 m diameter. These will be fed with water pumped in from the sea.

The proposed site, off the west coast of Lewis

The company is also considering sites in Shetland © Norwegian Mountain Salmon

According to the company's projections, the site can be cost-effective - in part as they predict mortality rates of only 2 percent, compared to the 22 percent average experienced by conventional salmon farming sites in Scotland during 2023.

They also note that the underground nature of the site will help to minimise its visual impact, while there will be no risk of their salmon escaping, nor will their fish be exposed to sea lice and other naturally occurring marine parasites.

Sister sites

NMS also has plans for a 25,000-tonne capacity salmon farm in tunnels on the island of Utsira in Norway, which will operate using a system that combines recirculation and flow-through elements.

Despite the outlandish nature of NMS' ideas, they are not entirely original. Back in early 2021, World Heritage Salmon announced their ambition to establish a 100,000 tonne farm in a series of tunnels in a disused mine in Sunnylvsfjorden.

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