Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is proposing to move and redevelop its Cleat North farm. The redeveloped farm (dotted lines) would have six fewer but larger pens, with an associated increase in maximum biomass from 960 tonnes to 2,885 tonnes. The company intends to use the site to grow smolts for its high energy sites.

Cooke seeks feedback as it plans farm expansions

Salmon farmer will hold meetings in Westray and Papa Westray

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Salmon producer Cooke Aquaculture Scotland will hold two public consultation events in Orkney next week to hear feedback on its proposed development of three marine farms.

The pre-application events will be held on the islands of Westray and Papa Westray next Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Cooke said this formal pre-application stage builds on very early public engagement on the proposals which it initiated on Westray and Papa Westray last May.

The Canadian-owned company added that this early engagement has shaped the current proposals which it is seeking feedback on from all interested stakeholders.

Cooke wants to relocate and expand its Skelwick Skerry and Cleat North salmon farms, increasing combined maximum biomass by 3,425 tonnes, and relocate its Vestness farm in Papa Sound further from the shore.

4,000 tonnes

The proposed expanded site at Skelwick Skerry would consist of 8 x 160-metre circumference salmon pens arranged in two rows of four pens with an associated increase in maximum biomass from 2,500 tonnes to 4,000 tonnes.

“Several production cycles at the existing site have shown that the high energy environment at this location creates optimal growing conditions that promote excellent fish welfare whilst also minimising our interactions with the environment and potentially sensitive receptors in the wider area,” said Cooke on its website.

“Upgrading the pens from 130m circumference to 160m circumference will enable an increase in production whilst making the equipment consistent with that at our new high energy site at East Moclett. This will improve operational efficiency whilst also providing a safer working environment for our staff.”

Juvenile fish

The proposed re-developed site at Cleat North would be relocated approximately 200 metres from the coastline of Westray in a north-west direction. The site, which will be used to grow post-smolts, would consist of 14 x 120m circumference salmon pens arranged in two rows of seven pens with an associated increase in maximum biomass from 960 tonnes to 2,885 tonnes.

“The development of our second ‘high energy’ farm East Moclett in the North Sound, and the potential expansion of East Skelwick, has led to an increased requirement for juvenile fish and fish feed storage facilities. Cleat North has been selected as the existing farm within Papa Sound to be expanded and have a new dual-purpose feed storage barge installed to meet these requirements,” Cooke said on its website.

The proposed site at Vestness would be relocated approximately 300 metres further from the coastline of Papa Westray in a south-west direction. There would be no increase in the tonnage of fish farmed at the site, but the equipment would be upgraded to comprise 10 x 120m circumference pens arranged in two rows of five pens.

Acting on feedback

Cooke said community feedback from its events in May indicated that some local residents would like the existing Vestness site to be moved further away from the shoreline.

“As such, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is proposing to move the site to the southwest of its current location, increasing its distance from the coast as far as possible without impacting on other users of the marine environment, for example ferry services.”

It has also deployed a hybrid-power feed barge at the site which will reduce carbon emissions and sound.

Cooke said the development proposals taken together represent its long-term commitment to Orkney. Should all proposed developments be granted consent, the total financial investment would be in excess of £20 million.

Murray Spooner: "Cooke’s operations keep people on the islands, attract new people to live there, and help businesses to thrive and schools to stay open."

Keeping communities viable

Murray Spooner, communications manager at Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, said: “We have been completely open and transparent in comprehensively engaging with the local community in the early stages regarding the proposed redevelopment projects. We look forward to welcoming the public to the consultation events.

“As one of the largest employers in Orkney and the Northern Isles, we are committed to keeping rural communities viable. Cooke’s operations keep people and their families on the islands, attract new people to live there, and help businesses to thrive and schools to stay open.”

Next week’s consultation events take place from 6pm-8pm in the upstairs room of Westray Church of Scotland on Tuesday, November 28, and at St Ann’s Kirk, Papa Westray, from 6pm-8pm on Wednesday, November 29.