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Ambitious plans to create Scotland’s first caviar farm at the head of Loch Fyne are attracting controversy.
The Fynest Caviar Company, based in Edinburgh, hopes to be on site at Clachan, Cairndow, by this spring – provided its planning application is approved by Argyll and Bute Council.
An application for permission in principle was submitted in November to the local authority for the ‘erection of a closed containment aquaculture facility for the production of sturgeon’.
One of three directors in the limited company, Edinburgh accountant Fraser Niven, said £4 million would be invested in the new enterprise.
He explained: ‘The initial investment will be on the infrastructure and stock, which is being bought from sustainable sources. The business is a long-term enterprise as we nurture the fish until they are in a position to provide their high quality produce.
‘We reviewed other locations across the UK and consider the chosen site in Argyll to have an impressive number of benefits including the water, the local expertise and the market’s high regard for the quality seafood produced in the area.’
But the scheme has drawn criticism from an animal rights group and Marilyn Shedden of Muasdale. Ms Shedden, a columnist with the Argyllshire Advertiser, submitted a letter to the council in which she urged officers to reject the application, writing: ‘I strongly object to what amounts to the total unadulterated cruelty to these fish.
‘This project, if pushed through, would be barbaric and would dehumanise us all.’
Campaign group PETA has meanwhile sent a petition with more than 5,000 signatures from members of the public urging the council to reject the plan.
PETA claims that in addition to causing cruelty to fish, a farm of this kind could result in increased traffic from goods vehicles and the obstruction of scenic views. It also claims environmental pollutants such as ammonia from the site could have a detrimental impact on wildlife.
PETA director Elisa Allen said: ‘PETA is calling for the proposal to be rejected, sparing sturgeons immense suffering.’
Fraser Niven responded: ‘In order to provide the finest product for our customers, we understand we will need to provide the finest facilities for our fish. One of the reasons for the significant level of investment is our desire to provide the optimum environment in which the fish can develop.
‘The company has assembled a well-respected and experienced team to assist in the set up and running of the business. Their reputation and knowledge will ensure best practice is established and maintained.’
Mr Niven added that seven full-time jobs will be created in the initial phase of the project, with potential for more.
There are still a number of hoops to be negotiated, however, before the project can be approved. Statutory consultees, including Marine Scotland, will need to be satisfied.
Just before Christmas, the government agency asked for further details of the scheme and advised The Fynest Caviar Company to engage with the Scottish Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate for necessary authorisation.