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A photomontage illustrating how the Balmacqueen would look from the coastal path at Radar Station. Image: Munro Landscape Ltd.
A photomontage illustrating how the Balmacqueen would look from the coastal path at Radar Station. Image: Munro Landscape Ltd.

Scotland’s newest salmon farmer, Organic Sea Harvest (OSH), will today find out whether Highland Council gives it the go-ahead for a fish farm at its Balmacqueen site off the north-east coast of Skye.

A previous application for a farm at a nearby site, Flodigarry, was rejected by planners, and also turned down on appeal.

OSH plans to use snorkel cages at the Balmacqueen site, 1600 metres from Balmacqueen. Snorkel cages keep fish below the “lice layer”, generally regarded as the top 10 metres of the water column. A wide central tube made from an impermeable material allows the fish access to the surface to refill their swim bladders without being exposed to lice.

OSH has applied for 12 cages, each with a circumference of 120 metres, and will use underwater feeding.

Out of view

In a non-technical summary submitted to planners, Jim Bromham of Lochside Associates, which is acting as OSH’s agent, said Balmacqueen had been chosen from more than 20 potential sites.

“Sites were investigated based on distance from existing salmon farms, expected wave conditions, and relative proximity to landing facilities,” wrote Bromham. “Key to the selection was the desire to avoid the sites being viewed at close quarters from residential properties, viewpoints identified on Ordnance Survey maps and the need to have a water depth of around 40m to allow for the proposed cage depth of 20m.”

Wildlife

The site is around six miles, from a seal haul-out, but OSH does not plan to use a separate layer of anti-predator netting, to avoid risk of entanglement with wildlife such as seals, porpoises or birds. It will instead rely on tensioning rings to keep the cage nets taught and the low stocking density required on organic farms.

Any use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) will be limited via an ADD protocol set.

OSH already operates two salmon farms a short distance down the coast at Culnacnoc and Invertote and will harvest its first fish in the spring.