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First Minister opens £16m smolt hatchery for Marine Harvest

First Minister Alex Salmond MSP has officially opened a new smolt hatchery in Lochaber which will grow eleven million fish each year to supply Marine Harvest’s salmon farms across the West Highlands and Islands.

The new facility is part of an £80m expansion of salmon farming to meet growing demand for farmed salmon.

Speaking as he officially opened the facility First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“The Scottish Government fully supports the successful, sustainable, and growing fish farming industry in Scotland, and with farmed salmon now worth over £600 million a year, and also being Scotland’s top food export, it is crucial that this industry continues to compete and lead the way internationally.

“I am therefore delighted to officially open this recirculation hatchery in Lochailort which is the largest and most technically advanced hatchery in the world, where more than eleven million young fish will grow each year.

“This new £16 million facility which is part of the continued £80 million expansion by Marine Harvest in Scotland is essential for meeting the company’s growth targets, meeting the increasing global demand for Scottish Salmon, and at the same time underpinning sustainable economic growth, particularly in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities by bringing much needed quality jobs.”

The site of the new building is steeped in history. As well as being the location for the first trials of commercial scale salmon farming in the country, it was the first site of the commando training station during the Second World War then a Naval training camp for the WRENs.

Managing Director of Marine Harvest Scotland Alan Sutherland, said: “This is a site with a great deal of history and we’re thrilled to be able to add our own chapter. We’re also delighted that the First Minister could join us today for the opening which is a major milestone in our investment programme.

“Demand for Scottish farmed salmon continues to grow and our expansion plans allow us to secure and create jobs in some of the most remote and fragile rural economies. This facility will play its part in what is a major success story for Scotland and its economy.”

The £16m facility replaces the existing smolt unit which has been in place for 20 years. The staff at the unit grow the salmon from eyed eggs until the smolt stage when they will be transferred to the company’s 36 seawater fish farms. Around six million fry and parr will also be produced for on-growing in the company’s four fresh water loch sites.

Eleven million fish including five million smolts will be grown each year as part of Marine Harvest’s £80m expansion to meet increasing demand for farmed salmon.

Some guests at the opening have a historic connection with the site, including Lady Ross of Marnock, who carried out her WREN training here during the war, as well as Dr Sir Ian Anderson who is widely credited as the driving force behind Unilever’s original commercial scale salmon farming research on the site. He became Marine Harvest’s second Chairman before returning to a post at Unilever.

As well as securing the positions of the existing five staff, a further five jobs are being created at the new unit. The building is 13,500m² and covers an area equivalent to two football pitches. Built by Robertson, it took just over a year to complete.

This latest development is part of Marine Harvest’s expansion plans which includes the creation of new open sea fish farms in various locations in the Minch. Two sites have already opened on Barra and Uist, a third one has planning permission and work continues to identify other potential sites.