A current view of the hillside looking northeast, left, and how it will look after a native woodland is established.

Salmon farmer branches out into woodland

Mowi Scotland will plant 102 hectares of broadleaved trees in protected area on Skye 

Published Last updated

Salmon farmer Mowi Scotland is to plant 102 hectares (252 acres) of native broadleaved woodland on steeply sloping land next to Loch Ainort on the eastern side of the Isle of Skye after being granted funding by Scottish Forestry, the Scottish Government agency responsible for forestry policy, support, and regulation.

The company operates three sites in the loch which have recently been upgraded through the installation of fewer, but larger, 160m pens.

Mowi owns the adjacent land, which comprises an open hillside/low ridge on the north side of Loch Ainort, lying within the Cuillins Special Protection Area (SPA). The company said that by planting native broadleaves, primarily consisting of native upland birch, the woodland will strengthen soil and water, protecting and enhancing habitat quality and biodiversity with resulting overall benefits to the designated site features of the SPA.

Stephen MacIntyre, head of environment at Mowi Scotland, told the fish farmer’s monthly newsletter, The Scoop, that the woodland will produce real outcomes that support Mowi’s strategic sustainability programmes and policies on the topics of protecting nature and biodiversity and delivering actions that contribute to tackling climate change.

Current (top) and future views of the site, looking northwest from Luib.

“The project is also aligned to Scotland’s Forestry Strategy, published by the Scottish Government, which seeks to increase woodland cover and contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration,” added MacIntyre.

It is estimated that the woodland will have the potential to sequestrate 38,616 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 100 years.

Mowi Scotland boss Ben Hadfield told The Scoop: “While the salmon sector and Mowi in particular produce salmon with a relatively low carbon footprint, we are always looking for ways to improve our sustainability profile. We are pleased that the Scottish Government’s commitment to plant more trees has enabled our company to participate in this initiative and at a neutral cost. I want to thank our environmental team for their hard work over the past five years to turn the opportunity into reality.”

Following the approval of funding, Mowi is now working with its woodland delivery partner, Galbraith, on a land preparation programme and species planting schedule for commencement of works in 2024.

The woodland will sit within a large-scale open landscape viewed mostly from the A87. It will have reduced planting density at the upper margins, which will create a more gradual transition to open hill.

The brown and grey areas indicate the extent of the new woodland, which has the potential to sequestrate 38,616 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 100 years.