WHY WE OPPOSE MOWI’S EXPANSION PLANS

Mortality rates of salmon over Mowi’s last production cycle (2018-19) were in excess of 20% (298 tonnes) yet Mowi prides itself on having reduced this percentage to below the average for salmon farms on the west coast.

The animal welfare issues alone are reason enough to curtail these profligate farming practices.

The incremental expansion of the farm over the last 22 years has resulted in a large capital intensive industrial factory farm associated with noise, traffic, stinking waste removal and plastic pollution that has fundamentally changed the atmosphere of this quiet, traditional west Highland village for the worse.

Our top reasons to object to further expansion of the farm biomass

  1. Expansion would create the third largest salmon farm in Scotland
  2. Nutrification of the loch from fish faeces affects marine ecology
  3. Sea lice impacts on wild salmon and sea trout
  4. Toxic pesticides from sea lice treatments affect marine species
  5. Visual impact and industrialisation of one of Britain’s last wilderness areas
  6. Fish welfare issues with high mortality rates of up to 20%
  7. No additional employment
  8. Lack of transparency and oversight from regulatory authorities
  9. “The status quo is not an option” (statement by Scottish Government)
  10. Any expansion is not time limited – it persists into perpetuity
  11. With such strong opposition from the local community, Mowi does not have a “social licence to operate.”

The marine ecology is impacted by the increased nutrients from salmon faeces and pesticides used to reduce sea lice infestations. Habitats have changed visibly, especially during the last fifteen years when the farm expanded from 2350t maximum biomass, was split into two farms (on the same site) and allowed 3300t maximum biomass and over 6000t of harvested salmon. SEPA repealed this license in 2016 due to two ‘unsatisfactory’ benthic surveys in 2013 and 2015: beggiatoa bacteria had colonized the seabed in the vicinity of the farm and the two sites were amalgamated into one and the maximum biomass reduced to 2500t.

Meanwhile sea lice infestations continue to occur. During the last complete growth cycle (2018-2019) over 18kg of the organophosphate pesticide Azamethiphos was dispersed into Loch Hourn along with smaller quantities of the toxic insecticides Emamectin Benzoate and Deltamethrin.

The effect on shellfish has been drastic as evidenced by many local observations of mussel bed mortalities, oyster and lobster declines.

fish farm net diagram

The effects of massive increases in sea lice larvae and declines in wild salmon and sea trout populations are directly correlated.

  • There has been a sharp reduction in breeding salmon and the consequent decreased interaction of salmon and the fully protected rare and endangered fresh water pearl mussels, curtailing this species reproduction capacity;
  • Sea grass, maerl beds, native oysters, wild salmon, sea trout, northern feather stars, tall sea pens and fireworks anemones are all priority species affected by the farm’s nutrients and chemical dispersals.
  • The farm is situated within a National Scenic Area. Since Marine Harvest acquired the site it has expanded its seabed mooring area from 26 hectares in 2008 to 44 hectares at present. In effect this has become an intrusive industrial farm in what was once the seaward gateway to a quiet loch surrounded by designated wild land.
  • The proposal does not accommodate the needs of all sectors of the community or contribute to the economic and social development of the community.

The only benefit that Mowi brings to the local community and the local economy is the employment of five full time local people (none of whom live in the villages or settlements around Loch Hourn). Mowi does not propose to add employees with the proposed expansion – its raison d’etre is simply ‘ecoonomies of scale to increase profits. Mowi brings in workers from Europe, the latest being from Portugal, on a temporary revolving basis similar to the work patterns on North Sea oil rigs. This adds nothing to the local economy or the social development of the community.

Loch Hourn is surrounded by a National Scenic Area, Wild Land designations, several ancient woodlands SSSIs, and an internationally important  Special Area of Conservation.  Mowi’s plan to expand further will make it one of the three largest salmon farms in Scotland. It is obvious that this is inconsistent with the character and capacity of this nationally important area.

Presently this farm has expanded so that it is now visible from Arnisdale. The scale of the farm has grown exponentially in area and biomass. The site has been transformed into an industrial factory, especially when sea lice treatments or harvesting with large vessels take place.

Additional information

  • Wild fish populations
    There are enough scientific peer-reviewed papers on the topic of the relationship between sea lice, salmon farms and wild fish without citing them here. Both the Scottish government’s  ECCLR and the REC Committee Reports draw even at relatively low levels of 0.2 female lice per fish, 160,000 breeding female sea lice are concentrated in a farm of 800,000 fish (see section x for further details).
  • Biological carrying capacity
    SEPA issues a range of licences designed to control activities that could lead to pollution or environmental damage. Compliance with these licences is important in ensuring that the environment and human health are protected. SEPA’s Compliance Assessment Scheme (CAS) has been designed to demonstrate the level of compliance associated with specific licence conditions, including aquaculture, with six categories of: excellent, good, broadly compliant, at risk, poor and very poor. The latest CAS for Creag an t-Sagairt for 2014 and 2016 was Poor for both years.
  • Cumulative benthic and water column impacts
    Benthic environmental monitoring during 2006, 2013 and 2015 were all ‘unsatisfactory’ requiring reduction in biomass and reconfiguration of pens. Twenty hectares of seabed below and within 50m of the pen edges are anoxic and totally devoid of biodiverse marine species apart from two or three worm taxa, according to the latest benthic sampling (2019). Open pen salmon farming with an annual production of 2,500 tonnes per annum will discharge around 10 tonnes per day of CO2 to the receiving waters along with over a tonne of ammonium and over 200kg of phosphate. Published research indicates that such inputs will promote the growth and production of biotoxins by many species of HAB’s.
  • Habitats and species, including designated sites and protected species (to be completed); existing activity, taking into consideration: PMFs (as listed in section x ) including the mass mortality of mussel beds spanning the head to the mouth of the loch; the dying out of native oysters, horse mussels, cockles and razor fish; the depletion of lobsters; and the massive increase in macro algae including the green alga Ulva lactuca and Saccharina latissima both of which are especially prolific in areas where nutrients are abundant.
  • The Ross, Sutherland, Skye and Lochalsh Fisherman’s Association have ‘objected strongly’ to Mowi’s proposed expansion due to i) the harmful impact on the marine environment and ii) lost revenue due to displacement from traditional fishing grounds’ and iii) request a moratorium upon all additional MOWI site development within Loch Hourn (see their letter sent to the G&ACC dated August 26, 2020).