Arran Banner letters – week 33

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Backing for fish farm

Sir,

I feel that somebody on the island should speak up and provide an alternative view from the vociferous campaign against the Scottish Salmon Company’s proposed new site at the north end of the island.

Having held back because of ‘vested interest’ I feel this complaint campaign has no mandate from the ‘whole population of Arran’ and the letters from as far afield as Forfar and Forres belittle the campaign.

The Lochranza open meeting was turned into a farce when the campaign leader stood up and shouted ‘we are out of here now’ and this was followed by a mass exodus of campaigners. This had been a premeditated and pre-planned stunt. The same people now complain about a lack of information and transparency from the SSC when there were many Scottish Salmon staff and associates there to answer any questions and explain their proposals further.

I was told by one good soul that they were campaigning to save the world for future generations. However, I would have thought that a future growing world population will have to take more from the sea. The money that will be required for  the research and development to enable this to happen will surely have to come from the fish farm community. Surely, it would make more sense to police Sepa and for Sepa to police the fish farm community.

At Arran Workboats Ltd, we are selling our boats to various fish farming companies, diving companies, marinas, adventure companies, harbour authorities etc and the ten people employed here take a great pride in the boats they produce and the customer feedback gives us confidence going forward. The boats are operating all up the west coast , Outer Hebrides down to Eastbourne and across to the north and south of Ireland and as far a field as Madeira. We are also working on boats for Lewis, Harris, Shetland and Orkney and tendering for boats in Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland. Some of the boats are for marine research organisations.

Arran Haulage haul on our raw materials and deliver the finished boat to the far corners. None of this would be possible to sustain without the orders from the fish farm companies.

All the people employed by Arran Workboats live on the island, send their kids to the local school and contribute in many ways to the economy and social structure of the island.

It seems foolhardy to be campaigning against inward investment from a company such as the Scottish Salmon Company who are looking to invest in the island and create ten new jobs on Arran. These jobs are of a good quality and could provide a future career for a young Arran person.

Yours,

Iain Monteith,

Arran Workboats Ltd,

Whiting Bay.

Smells fishy

Sir,

For anybody who has been subjected to an onslaught of foul odours emanating from huge yellow trucks en route to the ferry and who guesses what is being carried the latest PR mailshot must seem like an insult. Yes these trucks are carrying rotting fish that have perished in ever increasing quantity in the Lamlash Bay fish farm and there is every sign the company is trying desperately to contain the level of mortalities judging by the level of activity and frequency of yellow trucks passing by.

All this is surmise but let’s look more closely at what the PR material says. The depiction on the front of the brochure reveals the size of what is proposed and the huge visual impact along perhaps the most stunning wild coast on Arran, black marks for starters. You turn over and the proposal is said to have innovation at its heart. But what is at its heart in reality is the worst scenario of intensive farming at sea with the constant battle deploying an arsenal of toxic chemicals to contain disease and all the time faeces and urine equivalent in scale to sewage from a settlement of some 14,000 inhabitants simply being released without treatment to foul up the Clyde. Yes they might be spending more money to keep out predators and reduce the risk of salmon escape but this is not innovation to overcome the gross environmental intrusion.  We are all encouraged to believe that this SeaQure (secure) facility and its promoter will bring sweetness and light. The reality is that the GaelForce Group has yet to demonstrate that other than its anchors and feed barges the ‘innovations’ described in the project scoping report are real and viable. The GaelForce website makes no reference to such equipment.

For example the fish are supposed to swim along channels from their cages to the adjacent barge to receive their chemical treatment like cows to an automatic milking parlour. Morts or dead fish are somehow retrieved from the cages and floated to the barge where somehow they are ensiled, mashed up and disposed of – no yellow trucks here, no access road anyway so we are told. I don’t think so. What if this huge fish farm experienced what has gone on up Loch Fyne this spring when an algal bloom promoted by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in the loch, some originating from fish farms, killed off all the fish in one farm operated by our friends Scottish Salmon Company.

How on earth would the company handle at worst 5000 tonnes of dead fish trapped in cages off the North Arran shore. It is hard to imagine but could, of course, be a reality in future. The company does not tell us in the fancy brochure. Ah but there is an economic benefit in all this… Well yes somebody benefits otherwise nobody would be proposing to invest the money but who? The answer is that shadowy investors overseas are the main beneficiaries. They may be Scottish Salmon but they are not Scottish investors. Arran workboats, well yes but the shells for the boats are made elsewhere and are fitted out on Arran and in any case it is hard to imagine they were not subject to competitive tender. As for Knox of Kilbirnie, they are not dependent for their business on Arran. Kilbirnie will possibly benefit from the project in question if their price is right and good luck to them, no Arran benefit there.

As for the back page of the pamphlet – health and welfare and links to responsible salmon farming. Yes this company is solely responsible for proposing a stocking density of fish well exceeding RSPCA responsible practice and has just emerged from one of the most outrageous derelictions of duty at a fish farm in the Outer Hebrides cited for appalling cruelty and animal husbandry through sheer negligence, no mention of that in the PR. As for cleaner fish that supposedly eat all the parasitic lice, the bane of the industry, nobody has yet to demonstrate that this is anything other than an extension of the public relations fog. As for environmental stewardship how on earth can you claim to be environmentally respectful when you dump all your excrement and toxic chemicals into the sea?

A final word and this is my own prediction. I may be proved wrong but all round the world today this intensive salmon farming industry is moving on to land in containment facilities. The increased costs of doing this are offset by increasing scale far beyond the size of the North Arran proposal, also by locating these facilities nearer their urban markets. Rearing of genetic modified Atlantic salmon can today produce fish at twice the size and twice the speed of growth. This must mean that probably sooner rather than later raising salmon in open cages in inshore waters of Scotland will become uneconomic as well as untenable environmentally and the Scottish industry will collapse. This is not a sustainable industry for the long haul but another example of ‘klondiking’, exploitation for short term gain. Why should Arran even engage with such a proposal at the cost of ruining perhaps the most spectacular wild coastal fringes of far greater value to its future in the long term ?

Yours,

John M Campbell

Lamlash

Milk action

Sir,

As a retailer and passionate advocate of all things more local and natural, I am naturally saddened and worried about the closure of the creamery, and the economic knock on effect.  I read with interest the comments from Mr Murchie that it would be difficult to compete with supermarkets who undervalue milk to provide it at loss leader prices, cheaper than water.

I would love to help combat that perception. At Bay Stores we have been successfully retailing the Mossgiel milk, at £1.45 a pint (including glass bottle deposit).  The logistics of bringing Mossgiel milk in from the mainland are very challenging and I would relish the opportunity to help any farmer who is interested in maintaining milk production, with the marketing and selling of a more natural product.  I am convinced that with the right information out there, and with a fair price that reflects the work and value of our lovely island milk  – ie NOT trying to compete on price – and in fact dare I say charging a premium – to give customers the choice of buying local, high quality milk, could work.

Any other people feel the same way? Aren’t we getting fed up of the supermarket effect on our agricultural economy? Isn’t it time to pay a fair price for good local products? Check out what the guys at Mossgiel are going – it is revolutionary.

Please get in touch if you feel there is anything I can do as a retailer, but also as someone with a bit of marketing experience who would love to help fight back!

Yours,

Clair Reeves,

Bay Stores,

Whiting Bay

Wonderful women

Sir,

I would like to acknowledge through your letters page our thanks to all the island ladies who knitted away through the winter months and beyond to provide much needed premature baby clothes for Ayrshire.

These were delivered to the Neo-Natal unit  in Ayrshire Maternity Hospital yesterday.   A wonderful selection of soft hats, mitts, cardigans and blankets.  These go home with the babies once they are well.  A reminder of how tiny they were and how well they have grown.  It was a privilege to deliver them on behalf of the wonderful women of Arran.

Yours,

Mrs Jerry Arthur,

SWI chairwoman.