OSH has celebrated the beginning of its first harvest by launching a community fund. Photo: OSH.

Organic Sea Harvest and Cargill launch community fund

Salmon farmer Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) has partnered with feed supplier Cargill to launch a new community fund for north-east Skye, where it operates.

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The launch of the Bho Mjuir gu Tir / From Sea to Land fund coincides with the start of the company’s first harvest.

OSH said the principal aim of the initiative is to provide financial support to local organisations for projects which bring tangible benefits to sustain the rural district of Staffin, known as An Taobh Sear (East Side) in Gaelic. 

The area has a resident population of more than 570 people, who live in 23 crofting townships dotted around Staffin Bay and the Trotternish Ridge.

OSH director Robert Gray with some of the first fish to be harvested. Photo: OSH.

5p per kilo of HOG fish

OSH will contribute 5p per kilo of head on gutted (HOG) fish harvested from its farms to the fund, and the money will then be used for various community projects.

In a press release, OSH said the success of the initiative will be based on factors such as the number of farms it operates, the tonnage harvested and the volume of fish feed it purchases from Cargill.

OSH currently operates two farms, Culnacnoc and Invertote, and has been refused permission for two more sites a few miles to the north. It hopes to win permission for one of those, Balmaqueen, on appeal.

Community and workers

Culnacnoc and Invertote each have a maximum permitted biomass of 2,500 tonnes. Although there are many variables - grading and other farming techniques mean the biomass figure does not necessarily equate to final harvest volume, and fish weight will be reduced by gutting - a donation of 5p per kilo, or £50 per tonne, on 5,000 tonnes works out at £250,000.

Assuming a production cycle of two years, including fallowing, it means the community would gain more than £100,000 a year.

A committee composed of the OSH workforce and local community representatives (including Sgoil Stafainn primary school) will be created to decide which projects are supported. Each project will need to submit an expression of interest prior to being awarded any funding. OSH anticipates that several projects a year could benefit from this fund. 

Alex MacInnes at the cage edge during the first harvest this week. Photo: OSH.

‘Giving something back’

OSH spokesperson and founding director Alex MacInnes said: “We are delighted to follow in the footsteps of our friends at Loch Duart, who have a similar, successful fund [the Salmon Pool]. 

“A local fund is something I’ve been aiming to set up for a while now as it’s always been part of our vision at OSH to give something back to the community we work in. This is our way of thanking the people of Staffin for their continued support and part of our ongoing goal to help create a sustainable future for the next generation. For example, we will be fulfilling our commitment made at the beginning of the OSH journey by making a major contribution to the Staffin Slipway redevelopment project, which will see the harbour upgraded to serve the local community, fishing and aquaculture boats and encourage marine tourism. 

“We chose the name ‘Bho Mhuir gu Tir/From Sea to Land’ as it’s a reminder of Staffin’s rich fishing history. We are delighted to be supporting a historic fishing community and working closely together to deliver a community harbour for all.” 

Digital meeting

James Deverill, Country Director for Cargill Aqua Nutrition, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to support Organic Sea Harvest’s continued investment in the communities surrounding their organic salmon farming operations. Cargill is passionate about people and proud to be part of creating healthy, sustainable seafood for people to enjoy.” 

A digital meeting will be held to inform community members of how they can benefit and facilitate dialogue between OSH and those involved in local projects. Anyone interested in finding out more should visit communityfund@organicseaharvest.co.uk.