A calm day at one of OSH's two farms off the northeast coast of Skye, where rough weather can make harvesting impossible.

Scottish salmon farmer’s £3.2m bid to beat the weather

Closed containment holding pen in harbour should allow Organic Sea Harvest to slaughter fish all year round


Salmon farmer Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) is aiming to ensure a steadier supply of harvested fish to its processor by making a £3.2 million investment in a closed containment holding pen at the port of Lochinver.

OSH currently slaughters its fish at the cage edge, using a harvest boat operated by AquaShip which takes the fish to Lochinver, where they are unloaded and taken by road to Dingwall for processing.

But sea conditions at the organic farmer’s two exposed sites off the northeast of Skye mean that harvesting at the cage isn’t always possible.

Fiizk system

To solve the problem, OSH plans to site a Fiizk semi-closed containment system (SCCS) next to the quay at Lochinver, a sheltered port. When the weather forecast is bad it will use a wellboat to transport live fish to the holding pen, which has a fabric outer wall and an internal net.

Alex MacInnes: We have had to cancel harvests.

“There have been days when we have planned to do the harvest and we have had to cancel it because of the weather,” OSH director Alex MacInnes told Fish Farming Expert.

“This will enable harvesting all year round.”

OSH has received £1.1 m towards the cost of the Lochinver holding pen from the Scottish Government’s Marine Fund Scotland (MFS), which yesterday announced more than £13 m of grants to businesses and projects linked to aquaculture, fishing, and the marine environment.

MFS said the OSH initiative would reduce the number of wasted sea journeys due to bad weather, reducing fuel use, and would improve animal welfare and allow the company greater continuity of supply.

Seawater supply

Because Fiizk’s SCCS have an impermeable membrane, water must be pumped in to keep oxygen levels high.

“We will be taking water from a source outwith the harbour, tapping into the infrastructure from an old harvest station,” explained MacInnes, who added that the company had consulted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and other regulators.

Water will be filtered when it comes in and when it is discharged from the SCCS, said MacInnes, who added that as pre-slaughter fish aren’t fed, there would be little waste.

Biosecurity measures will be taken when fish and the water they are transported in are transferred to the holding pen from the wellboat.

Fish in the holding pen will still be harvested using the AquaShip boat.

The pen will also benefit the Dingwall processing plant owned and run by fellow salmon farmer Loch Duart, as it should guarantee a more regular supply of OSH fish.

A 700-tonne Fiizk holding pen in use in Norway. OSH, which has a maximum allowed biomass of 5,000 tonnes, wouldn't need such a large capacity.