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Dawnfresh lost more than 33,000 rainbow trout through a hole in a net on one of its farms on Loch Etive. Photo: File picture.
Dawnfresh lost more than 33,000 rainbow trout through a hole in a net on one of its farms on Loch Etive. Photo: File picture.

Scotland’s biggest trout farmer, Dawnfresh, has increased the frequency of net inspections using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) following the escape of more than 33,000 fish from a pen at Loch Etive last month.

The number of escapees was calculated last Wednesday after the company brought in a wellboat to empty the cage of the remaining fish and count them.

Marine Scotland investigators visited the site last Thursday to conduct their own investigation into the escape of the rainbow trout, which had an average weight of 1kg.

Alison Hutchins: Damage caused during equipment upgrade.
Alison Hutchins: Damage caused during equipment upgrade.

Hole found

In a statement, Dawnfresh farming director Alison Hutchins said the escape came to light on June 14, when Dawnfresh staff were assisting the local salmon fisheries board with a sample count of fish on Loch Etive and some of the company’s trout were discovered.

“An ROV was used to inspect the nets as soon as possible, which was in the early hours of 15 June, and a hole was found in one of the nets. This was immediately fixed,” stated Hutchins.

“As is standard practice in these instances, we undertook an immediate investigation into what caused this fault and ordered a count of the cage at the first available opportunity, which was Wednesday (26 June) when a wellboat visited the farm. 

“We have now confirmed, and informed Marine Scotland, that the number of fish missing from the pen is a little over 33,000. We looked at option to seine net the River Awe but this proved impossible due to current and debris. 

“Our investigations of the incident thus far indicate that the hole in the net was caused whilst upgrading our bridles to chains from nylon.”

Marine Scotland inspection

The farming director added: “Marine Scotland investigators visited the site on Thursday to conduct their own investigation in to what happened, an inspection we entirely welcome and which we felt was productive.

“We have already put in place measures to prevent this situation from happening again and increased the frequency of net inspections using the ROV.”

A Marine Scotland spokesman told The Herald newspaper: “Marine Scotland is aware of the escape incident at Dawnfresh, Inverawe. The Fish Health Inspectorate conducted an inspection at the site last week and we are working with them to look at what measures should be put in place to prevent an incident like this from happening again.”