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Plans have been lodged to almost double the size of a fish farm near popular Ganavan beach.
The public has until March 13 to have a say, even though there is no date for when the Scottish Sea Farm (SSF) application will go to Argyll and Bute Council’s planning committee for a decision.
Campaigners against the expansion have already said the go ahead at Norweigan-owned SSF’s Dunstaffnage site would be ‘permission to pollute’ and could make the water out of bounds for some recreation seekers.
If the number of salmon pens goes up from nine to 14 and in size as intended, there are concerns more pesticides, fish excrement and uneaten fish food could end up in the sea, making the waters nearby a no-go area – especially for the all-year round wild swimmers and others who might swallow the water.
SSF says no chemicals are used on or around the farmed fish; only licensed medicines prescribed by veterinary professionals and given in safe dosages.
Asked specifically about the use of Salmosan, the longest running sea lice treatment in the world, SSF said its farm manager had not used it during his 10 years at Dunstaffnage.
In SSF’s environmental impact assessment, Salmosan is first on the list of consented treatments they can use at Dunstaffnage. On the pesticide’s safety data sheet it is noted as being ‘very toxic’ to aquatic life with long lasting effects’, as well as being harmful to humans if swallowed and may cause an allergic skin reaction.
Although Salmosan has not been used in recent years at Dunstaffnage, SSF says there have been occasions at other farms within its 42-strong estate where the pesticide had proven ‘to be the best approach in the interests of fish health and welfare’. In those instances, the active ingredient of Azamethiphos is used at 0.1 ppm (parts per million) dilution.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said this week that based on the levels of medicines discharged into the marine environment from a farm treatment, a human weighing 75kg would need to ingest in excess of 300 million litres of seawater in order for levels to be of concern.
Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher said minimising the impact of the new farm has been considered ‘at every turn’.
‘As we now look to expand the farm, minimising our impact has been considered at every turn, including aesthetically – for example, by ensuring the salmon pens remain as far away from Ganavan as they currently are, and by re-positioning the new feed barge out of sight from this popular beach,’ he said.
The new farm will create two additional jobs and invest £3.2 million in farm infrastructure – the majority of which will be spent with Scottish suppliers.
Objector Ewan Kennedy from Save Seil Sound, said: ‘It’s madness to allow this close to the only sandy beach for miles around in an area dependent on tourism and leisure.’
Last year the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) announced after a public consultation that it intended to allow SSF to increase its fish production from 1,300 tonnes to 2,350 tonnes. The Dunstaffnage farm has an ‘excellent’ compliance rating with SEPA.
Dennis Archer from Argyll and Bute Green party said photomontages included in SSF’s application to the council suggested the enlarged farm would be ‘very visible’ from Ganavan beach.
And added: ‘Close as it is to the beach, it already offers a significant danger to beach users through pollution from excrement and excess medicines, though naturally SEPA assure us that their modelling indicates no problems.
‘How much increased noise there would be on a larger farm both through routine operation and during well-boat operations is another unknown.’
Andy Corbe, who is one of many regular water users around Oban and Ganavan in particular, is also concerned.
He said: ‘Whilst the current installation appears to have a good track record there is no getting away from the fact the fish farms are permitted to use a variety of toxic chemicals, and produce a lot of faeces and food waste that are detrimental to the marine environment. The environmental impact assessment has not flagged the fact that wild swimming is a rapidly growing activity in the area and the number of water users will only increase with the housing development at Dunbeg and potentially Ganavan with more of the smaller beaches closer to the fish farm also being used.
‘Given the large amount of water real estate already occupied by fish farms in the area, the expansion of a farm in such a visible location close to a rapidly growing population centre is rather insensitive to the local community.’
Go online to Argyll and Bute Council’s planning portal and search 20/02358/MFF to read SSF’s application in full.