Arran fish farm campaigners camp out in creative protest

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The Arran Banner revealed last week that the Scottish Salmon Company has submitted a revised planning application significantly reducing the size of their proposed fish farm at Millstone Point on Arran in a bid to secure planning permission later this year. The proposal is bitterly opposed on the island and here the Friends of Millstone Point outline why.

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Last weekend local fish farm objectors set up camp at Millstone Point and laid the first stones of a community cairn to demonstrate their outright opposition to any fish farm at this pristine site.

Having to follow Covid-19 rules the two Friends of Millstone Point camped-out and protestors were invited to walk by in family groups the next day to add a stone to the cairn. Stones were added by new objectors, and on behalf of the over 200 people who formally objected last year and the nearly 7,000 who have already signed the on-line petition. A camp-out vigil will now be held at Millstone Point each week with supporters asked to walk out individually to add a stone and follow this up with a written objection.The cairn stones will be returned to the shore when the application has been defeated.

The new application made by the Faroese-owned ‘Scottish’ Salmon Company was submitted to North Ayrshire Council last month following previous objections. It is viewed as a tactical manoeuvre by the company in an attempt to appear to be compromising on cage numbers, while still establishing an extensive factory farm off one of Arran’s most loved shore lines. The company now proposes 12 x 120m (circumference) cages plus associated barge feeder.

Arran residents and visitors, many from Scotland’s central belt, have been delighted by the appearance of bottle-nosed whales and dolphins and many harbour porpoises this year. It is unfathomable to islanders that, just as sea life is recovering along Arran’s coast line, an off-shore company is proposing to set up a salmon factory farm that will use Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs – these sound like an underwater fire alarm going off) to scare seals, which will also keep porpoise, dolphins and whales away. The same company already operates a fish farm in Arran’s scenic Lamlash Bay where these creatures are rarely seen. The ADDs are usually being operated around the clock and can be heard constantly by local and visiting wild swimmers.

Objections to the fish farm are well founded. Sea lice, which spread to wild fish, the chemicals used to reduce lice numbers on salmon, the effluent from so many fish crowded into cages, together with the accidental releases of genetically variant salmon are all well-documented as having serious detrimental impacts on the surrounding environment and native salmon. Only last month, 50,000 salmon escaped from a MOWI fish farm at North Carradale and 30,000 died. Escaped fish are being caught in rivers throughout the Clyde Region and as far afield as Cumbria; yet again highlighting the dangers of these farms to wild salmon. Promises of a few jobs appear weak when compared with the long-term health of our environment.

Residents and Arran visitors also have their own strong reasons for opposing the factory farm in the North Arran National Scenic Area. As one of the remotest but still accessible stretches of Arran’s Coastal Way the route is frequently walked by young and old and many remember their first walks along the path with their parents and later with partners and young children.

Marion and Stephen Brown who brought stones from Kildonan to place on the community cairn say ‘we really value the beauty and wildlife of this lovely place, the views northwards towards Bute and the Highlands beyond’.

James and Sarah, a young couple from Saltcoats walked by during the protest, James said: ‘I often come here to camp with my friends, there should absolutely not be a fish farm here, we love jumping on the ferry and enjoying the peace and quiet when we get here’.

Donald and Susan McNicol brought a stone each from Kings Cross. Susan said: ‘I love this place for what it is, unspoiled with no roads or cars’.

Pat Green from Arran’s south end commented: ‘This is the only place I have seen a basking shark on Arran.’

The diverse collection of campaigners working under the banner of Friends of Millstone Point are stressing to supporters that they must write again to North Ayrshire Council. They do not have to repeat all the comments they made before, but they should make it clear why this latest application is not acceptable. Comments can be left on the NAC planning website under the same reference as before 19/00609/PPM. Key points will be circulated on new website: