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Islanders on Jura are hitting back at plans for the first fish farm on its remote west coast.
Kilmelford-based Kames Fish Farming Ltd, in a pre-planning application to Argyll and Bute Council, is ‘scoping opinion’ for a 14-pen fin fish farm near Corpach Bay.
An online petition to stop the development, started by residents Louise Muir and deer stalker Craig Rozga, had collected 400 signatures in the first 24 hours, and more than 1,400 by Tuesday this week.
Mrs Muir, who has a background in environmental conservation, said: ‘There are important principles at stake. It is a place precious to many who come to seek solitude and appreciate the remote and beautiful landscape.
‘It is impossible to mitigate the visual impact. Its presence alone would remove the wilderness and scenic qualities valued by many.’
The area is designated ‘Wild Land’ and ‘Area of Panoramic Quality’ and lies within the Inner Hebrides and The Minches Special Area of Conservation (SAC), she said, and is ‘rich in rare wildlife’, such as harbour porpoises, dolphins, and minke, killer and sei whales.
‘The plan shows acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) would be used to deter seals. Cetaceans can be displaced by ADDs at ranges of 7km. The cumulative impact will be devastating to these species.
‘Impacts from lice, disease, pesticides and waste, to not only wild fish, but other marine life is unacceptable. The estates on Islay and Jura work hard to conserve and enhance their local native populations.
‘The proposal is flawed: there has been no consideration to the exposed nature of the site and the high potential for escaped stock and mooring instability of the cages.
‘There has been no hydrodynamic modelling, no benthic (seabed) biology survey submitted, maximum stocking biomass has been increased to levels for which further investigations are needed and fallow periods are unsustainably short. Impacts to other wildlife have not been considered.
‘A promise of six jobs, while sacrificing a rare wild landscape and unspoiled marine habitats, is not appropriate or sustainable economic development.’
Stuart Cannon, managing director of Kames Fish Farming Limited, said it is ‘an environmentally responsible company which has produced high quality, sustainable fish for more than 45 years’.
He added: ‘We are very much aware there is a balance to be struck, and would not want to place a site where there would be risk to the amazing biodiversity we have on the west coast.
‘We have withdrawn applications in the past where the scientific assessment of the site has suggested the site is not suitable. We require new sites to meet the growing demand for our product and want to place these sites in areas deemed suitable by the application process.’