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Gannet swallows up 1,600 tonnes as Mowi breaks processing record

The Norwegian Gannet harvesting fish from Mowi's Portnalong site on Skye during the third quarter. Photo: Mowi.
The Norwegian Gannet harvesting fish from Mowi's Portnalong site on Skye during the third quarter. Photo: Mowi.

Nearly 1,600 tonnes of salmon from Mowi Scotland were processed on the Norwegian Gannet factory ship in the third quarter of this year as “unprecedented” harvesting levels exceeded the capacity of the company’s primary processing plant at Blar Mhor, Fort William.

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The Hav-Line-owned Gannet processed 403,221 fish (1,595 tonnes) from pens at Mowi’s Portnalong, Cairidh and Rum sites and exported them directly to the port of Hirtshals in Denmark. 

Another 333,070 Scottish fish (1,102 tonnes) were processed at Mowi’s plant in Donegal.

Staff at Mowi's Blar Mhor processing plant set a new Q3 record of 18,888 tonnes of fish. Photo: Mowi.
Staff at Mowi's Blar Mhor processing plant set a new Q3 record of 18,888 tonnes of fish. Photo: Mowi.

Seven-day weeks

The Gannet and Donegal options were required even though staff at Blar Mhor worked seven-day weeks and extended hours to set a new Q3 record of 4,601,623 fish (18,888 tonnes) being processed through July, August and September.

Mowi Scotland’s processing and feed operations director, Ewan MacColl, told staff newsletter The Scoop: “I’d like to thank everyone involved for helping us deliver such a fantastic Q3 volume.

“Everybody showed great flexibility – the teams at Blar Mhor and Mallaig (harvest station) practically worked round the clock, the team in Donegal rose to the challenge and the seawater teams worked closely with the Hav-Line crew who collected, processed and delivered our salmon for the very first time.”

Health challenges

Although Mowi had planned for a large harvest this summer, the workload was increased further by biological problems which forced early harvesting of fish at some sites.

The company said last week that higher-than-average sea temperatures throughout 2019 aided in providing ideal growing conditions for harmful algal blooms and exacerbated health challenges common to salmon, lowering the average survival rate at nine sites harvested over the past five months to 76%.

In May Mowi Scotland managing director Ben Hadfield revealed in The Scoop that the company was looking at replacing Blar Mhor with a new processing facility at its feed plant at Kyleakin, Skye to handle the increased harvests expected in the coming years.

Other options under consideration were increasing capacity in Fort William, either by expanding the current processing facility at Blar Mhor, or by identifying a suitable site elsewhere in Fort William; increasing the capacity at Mowi’s processing plant in Donegal; expanding Mowi’s value-added facility at Rosyth, Fife and increasing its scope; and introducing ocean processing onboard Mowi’s vessels.

62,000 tonnes

Hadfield said at the time: “While all options are on the table at this point, and whilst it is still early days and there is a lot of work to do, a preferred option is to build a new state-of-the-art facility at our feed plant at Kyleakin.

“The reasons that made Kyleakin our preferred choice to build our new feed plant are also relevant when choosing a location for a fish processing facility. We have invested a lot of money into the pier and it makes sense to optimise that.”

The target for completion and full operation of the new plant is 2024.

According to its third-quarter report published last week, Mowi Scotland expects to harvest 62,000 tonnes (gutted weight equivalent) this year and 67,000 tonnes in 2020.

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