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A campaign to fight the proposed expansion of the fish farm in Lamlash Bay was launched last week.
The Community of Arran Seabed Trust, COAST, took its first steps in its renewed opposition to expansion plans by the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) by holding a well attended public meeting in Brodick.
It was the first of six scheduled public meetings to be held around the island – further meetings are planned for Kildonan, Whiting Bay, Lamlash and Blackwaterfoot and Lochranza in the coming weeks.
They have been organised following the news, reported in the Banner last month, that the company has submitted a new expansion plan which is almost double a previous proposal.
The SSC, based in Lamlash Bay, had previously applied for permission to expand its operations but these were later withdrawn. They were fiercely opposed by COAST, who hosted demonstrations and numerous public awareness campaigns as well as lobbying against the proposal.
COAST founder Howard Wood told the meeting: ‘After a long process of lobbying to oppose the expansion of the Lamlash Bay fish farm and after the application was withdrawn, we once again find ourselves having to stand up against this large multinational company whose expansion plans puts the ecological health of Lamlash Bay at risk.’
The meetings which will take place across the island, will include a short film and information on the impact and history of the company, and the repercussions of the development, including a discussion on the benefits that it could bring.
COAST director Paul Chandler opened the Brodick meeting with background information on why COAST was originally formed, taking the audience through the long-drawn out process of securing a Marine Protected Area in Lamlash Bay. He then handed the chair over to Mr Wood who outlined why he opposed the development.
He said the main concerns centred on effluent from the fish farm, which if increased, would further pollute the waters of the bay, and the use of chemicals, which even when used in small amounts, are potentially harmful to other animal life in the bay.
In particular a chemical marketed as SLICE, which is used to control lice infestations which are prevalent in fish farming, is known to be devastating to shellfish and is believed to be used in larger and larger quantities by fish farmers across the west coast of Scotland.
Of further concern for COAST, and one with even more serious implications, is the occurrence of farmed salmon escaping and breeding with wild salmon, something which Mr Wood explained resulted in a weaker gene pool.
This recently occurred on the Isle of Mull where 11,000 farmed fish escaped from a Scottish Salmon Company farm at Geasgill, sparking fears for the genetic purity of wild salmon.
After the presentation, community council chairman Bill Calderwood, who chaired the meeting, opened the discussion by asking the audience for their opinions and comments which saw many voicing their opposition to the expansion, either through the effects on their business or on ecological grounds.
COAST will use the information gathered from the participants, including a petition which most in attendance signed, to formulate a plan of action and to galvanise support for what is expected to be another long drawn-out fight against further expansion in the Marine Protected Area in Lamlash Bay.
In a letter printed in the Banner last week the CEO of the Scottish Salmon Company Craig Anderson promised a full programme of consultation with local residents and organisations to listen to their views and concerns over the development plans.