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More than 5,000 fish have escaped from a freshwater trout farm into Loch Awe.
A hole in a new net was found on Thursday afternoon during routine weekly checks.
Farming director for Dawnfresh Alison Hutchins said it was the site team at the Braevallich farm who found the hole along the seam in a net only installed in November 2017.
‘The team immediately fixed the problem and notified Marine Scotland, before inspecting all of the other nets on the farm, finding no further problems. Using specialised equipment to count the fish in the net, regrettably we estimate that 5,400 fish have escaped into the loch. These fish are all bred as Triploid’s so are sterile and, thus, unable to breed. The local fisheries board has also been alerted,’ she said.
Ms Hutchins added: ‘We would usually expect a net such as this to last between five and seven years so, as this one was only installed in November 2017, the manufacturers have already been onsite to remove the net to determine if it might have had a fault of some kind, as other likely causes such as predators are highly unlikely at this site.’
Keith Macmillan, on behalf of the Friends of Loch Etive, said: ‘Triploid or not, non-native farmed rainbow trout, if they escape, compete for food with native salmon and sea trout in Loch Etive and predate upon juvenile wild salmon.
‘With the salmon run on the River Awe being the lowest ever recorded in 2017, the wild stocks can ill afford another Dawnfresh escape. This is another in the very long line of escapes on Loch Awe and Loch Etive.’