West coast locals horrified at inevitable damage to Loch Linnhe
ALARMED LOCALS are calling for government action to halt plans to create Scotland’s largest fish farm in a loch known for its dolphins, otters, seals and sea eagles.
Local divers, fishermen, wild swimmers and even a rock band have voiced opinions and are outraged by Loch Long Salmon’s [LLS] proposals to bring “semi-closed” fish pens to the renowned shores of Loch Linnhe – using technology never tested before in the UK.
The eight proposed pens would hold millions of fish – with a total live weight equivalent to 11,000 cows – and unlike conventional fish farms would need a large shoreside installation running 24 hours a day in support.
James Standley, a retired professional diver with 25 years of experience, lives on the boundary of the proposed site, and has raised concerns about the project’s impact on the loch’s wildlife and surrounding community.
James said: “The damage this fish farm would have on the area would be irreversible. We’ve only got one shot at protecting Scotland’s natural beauty, so to pave over it would be an act of vandalism.
“Coming from a background of diving, it’s really worrying to think of the impact this could have on our wildlife. I’ve seen basking sharks in the loch; yet I could soon be swimming next to 50 metre fish pens. I’ve watched the volume of marine life diminish over the years and projects like this play a massive part in that.
“My neighbours and I bought our homes to be close to the outdoors, so we could nip down to the loch for a dip and enjoy the view with our morning coffee. Just like that, we could lose all of it.”
Local angler David Gunn, who has fished these waters for 61 years, fears the proposed fish farm will all but end the wild Atlantic Salmon population in the area.
David said: “Without a doubt, fish farms have had a huge impact on the declining numbers of wild salmon in our waters, and it is a problem that has been exacerbated on the west coast of Scotland.
“This has always been a good area for wild salmon, and there was even a surplus in Loch Linnhe; but since the advent of salmon farms, the wild salmon population has declined by 95% and so many salmon in Loch Linnhe’s rivers are now extinct.
“The level of excrement that will be dumped in the loch is frightening. Loch Long Salmon is effectively proposing eight massive fish farms – and while they say they can capture some of this waste – the majority of it will settle on the loch bed and will filter on the shellfish and make its way into the food chain, restaurants aren’t going to want to put that on their menus.
“Everywhere this new technology has been tested so far has been at a much smaller scale and it hasn’t worked effectively. To go straight into something at such a huge scale is an enormous gamble in an area of outstanding natural beauty – we don’t want to be used as a test bed.”
The loch is known as a wild swimming spot. Charlotte Parkin has been swimming in the loch for five years and feels that a new mega farm would destroy the area’s natural beauty.
Charlotte said: “It is incredibly peaceful and you get a real sense of euphoria while swimming in the loch. There is a huge number of people that use the loch and it is not uncommon to have 30 people by the beach on a summer’s night enjoying the water – it’s incredibly valuable to the community.
“Fish farms have a major impact on the tranquillity of the loch, I have swum close to nearby fish farms and it completely spoils the serene experience. Sometimes we’ve seen scum on the loch surface near these farms and it is enough to put anyone off swimming.”
The fear of losing the loch’s sense of wilderness has even inspired the creation of a protest song by local band Rough Edges called ‘Loch Linnhe Blues’, now released across global streaming services.
Malcolm Knowlson, guitarist of the band, said: “We came up with a riff and put some words to the song, we played it at the local village hall and it just grew and grew from there.
“All around here the strength of feeling has grown against this proposal. Having been to the consultation set up by Loch Long Salmon, I think what they are proposing is just ludicrous.
“There are endless reasons why this fish farm shouldn’t go ahead, the stocking rate is well above the recommendation and pollution would be very high. This area is doing its bit, with fish farms located on Loch Leven, Loch Creran and across the loch. The cumulative impact would be horrendous.
“What started as a laugh with the song seems to have captured the imagination of our community and we hope it will act as a voice on our feelings towards this unproven fish farm proposal.”
The fightback is being spearheaded by Long Live Loch Linnhe, which is a collective of highly concerned local residents who have united in a bid to defend this precious stretch of Scotland’s coastline and marine environment from LLS’ proposal.
Long Live Loch Linnhe will be launching a petition on the Scottish Parliament webpage to raise awareness and support for their concerns.
The Rough Edges’ song ‘Loch Linnhe Blues’ is available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B3T6–Zzv4 and on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/6VZciBR694oFBMma3GxIVe
For more information on Long Live Loch Linnhe, sign up to a newsletter and be alerted to the publication of the petition, please visit: https://www.longlivelochlinnhe.org.uk/
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