Polly Huggett, Island Farm's Endangered Acess, Round and About Mull, 1st March 2012

Scottish Salmon Company plan a new salmon farm in Loch Tuath on a 40 hectare (100 acre) site. This is almost a third of the length of Gometra and nearly 10% of its area. The islanders believe that it will hinder Gometra’s route to Mull, and will put the farm’s working life and people’s lives at risk, and that it will devastate the island’s wildlife and Loch Tuath’s sea and landscape. As Greg Marsh has highlighted in his article on the Loch Scridain development, the details of the proposals are alarming.

The small local community on the island is 100% opposed to the scheme, but sadly consultation with the island was commenced on 13th December 2011, six weeks after the submission of the screening and scoping document to Argyll and Bute planners and at least six months after consultation was started with other bodies.  This very document states that statutory consultees had six weeks to respond, i.e. until 13th December 2011. Gometra was the last to be consulted, when it should have been the first.

The site’s location on the north side of Gometra will block the island's coast-hugging route to Ulva Ferry. Small boats used by the farm and residents to access doctors, A&E and other services, together with those used to carry feeding and livestock, will be forced out into the open waters of Loch Tuath.  In conditions of poor visibility like fog we will be forced out of visual contact with the island. Ulva is accessible at most tides by quad but the track is too rough and too long for regular use and almost all transport to and from the island is by boat.  Iain Munro who farms Gometra and who has been making the journey for many years, expressed concerns and these were raised at Scottish Salmon’s open day in Craignure on his behalf by a Mull Community Councillor who was assured by the company that there would be room to go between the farm’s feeding barge and either the cages or the island. Local fishermen opposed the preliminary location of the site because it was in their way and all mariners are aware that, even with assurances of the best intentions and the tidiest of equipment, to be expected to weave between the shore and feed barge or the feed barge and the pens with the potential danger of ropes under the surface of the water is dangerous, even in good weather, let alone when sea conditions are forcing boats to hug the coast.

The apparent disregard for local routes, farms’ rights to continue functioning and for people’s lives does not bode well if expecting these applications to express sensitivity towards other users of Loch Tuath, whether they are shellfish farmers, the tourism businesses or the exceptionally rich marine wildlife of the area.

As Greg Marsh has highlighted, sluiced with medication and choked with tonnes of nitrogen-rich salmon faeces, the seas around these farms are devastated and, as locals confirm, not just in the short-term. Salmon factory farms such as this are producers of sewage and toxic effluence on a vast scale. Currently there is no legal requirement by the government for fish farms to treat or filter the faecal waste discharged from the pens as is the case for domestic human sewage and agricultural slurry. According to figures from the Climate and Pollution Control Directorate, emissions of organic matter from a fish farm of this size (2420 tonnes) will be equivalent to a sewage spill from a city of over 30, 000 people; that is more than 10 x the population of Mull. Are there double standards in SEPA’s approach to salmon farm waste as opposed to terrestrial waste sources, and if so why? Notably Loch Tuath currently holds a category ‘A’ shellfish water designation meaning farmers can sell pristine quality shellfish direct for human consumption but a with the threat of a 500% increase in fish-farm pollution in the Loch, for how long?

The Scottish Salmon Company has applied for a licence to kill seals as the site is within the natural range and foraging areas of grey and common seals. The Treshnish Isles Special Area of Conservation hosts a rare colony of grey seals (3% of UK population) and lies within (inwith?) 2 km of the proposal. There are numerous common seal haul outs in the immediate vicinity that are popular attractions for tourist boats running around Ulva and Gometra on their way to the Staffa archipelago and the Treshnish Isles. Basking Sharks, dolphins and whales are seen around the north coast of Gometra but Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) have been identified by the SSC scoping document as necessary for this site. ADDs use sound to exclude porpoises, dolphins and whales over a massive area.

It is vital that the current proposals which will be submitted as an official planning application to Argyll & Bute in the coming months be rigorously examined on these issues as well as the navigation impediment, and that the appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment (E.I.A.) process be implemented.

Your attention is drawn to the island of Eigg’s recent campaign to halt The Scottish Salmon Company’s plans for a farm half the size of those planned for Mull, in which 97% of the Eigg population were opposed and also to other companies’ threats to Islay (I.A.S.G. was formed to combat this), Broad Bay (Save Broad Bay), and to Seil Sound (Save Seil Sound). Despite the promise of the developers that they will create 4 jobs, over the last 18 years the productivity of Salmon Farming in Scotland has enjoyed a 300% increase and the industry has hardly increased its workforce. As the automated systems become more sophisticated, and more and more of the servicing, provisioning and export of salmon is done by offshore well-boats, what jobs there are in salmon farming are probably more likely to be found at distant processing plants or on the well-boats than at the site and in any case there can be no guarantee that what jobs there really are will be awarded to people local to Gometra or around Loch Scridain.

Please help by talking to your community councillors and your councillors. Please write to pollyhuggett@gmail.com to let us know if you are in favour or against the plans and if you would like more information.  If successful, we believe this proposal would devastate Gometra.  Thank you.

 

 

Please watch Pure Salmon’s eye-opening film about the awful effects of salmon farming at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eggrGn0V0fg  and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eC3Y2mUK98&feature=related

 

 

 

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Pig Advert as follows -

 

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Please telephone Gometra Farm for details on 01688 500221