Appearances, innovation key to Scottish licenses

William Stoichevski

New lice-fighting tech, smaller, quieter feed barges and dimmer lighting together form the path to new Scottish fish-farming acreage, judging by recent decisions from local authorities and regulators.

Egersund Netàs Tubenot

In winning its permit to grow salmon at Culnacnoc this week, Organic Sea Harvest informed regulators and planning authorities that the new company would use a new type of pen —  the Tubenot pens made by Egersund Net. The project will also boast a new AM 320 feed barge from AKVAGroup which, like much equipment delivered to Scotland, might have to be painted in marine grey, the preferred colour of Scottish planners, and not in AKVAGroup’s company colours of white and black.

Objections lodged against Scottish fish-farm applications and site renewals have recently managed to halt projects based on the “eyesore” aspect (called “landscape” or “tourism” impacts in official papers). One recent Marine Harvest application to modify a site endured just such an onslaught from individual residents and groups.

“One objector did not approve of the visual impacts of the existing feed barge, which will not change. They also objected to the noise of the feed barge. (An) increase in biomass may lead to prolonged use of the feed barge but potential improvements in noise management should improve the situation,” one regional council noted.

Marine Harvest finally got the go-ahead after taking heed of this: “All surface equipment, with the exception of navigational markers, shall be finished in a dark, matt neutral colour unless alternative finishes are agreed in advance in writing with the Planning Authority.”

However, as with lice and lighting, the supply chain has been busy with their increments of change. Innovation seems to be responding to complaints.

“(Noise) is something we definitely have a focus on,” AKVAGroup export manager, Kjell-Egil Riska, told SalmonBusiness, adding, “That’s one of the reasons we recently delivered a hybrid feed barge. If the company wants it quiet when not feeding, as at night, or if they only want to maintain the basic operation of the platform, then it can run on its battery.”

The quieter the better: an AKVAGroup AM 320 feed barge

Their AM 320 feed barge slated for delivery to Organic Harvest is not a hybrid barge, but it does offer power-management onboard. The company has delivered several AM 320s in Norway, complete with crew comforts.

Strong, concert-like lighting and the suggested use of underwater lighting to spur fish growth have both set off alarm bells and stirred complaints among the Scottish citizenry, the record shows. A cursory look at some feed barges reveals they’re festooned with lights, and planning documents reveal fish-farmers are being asked to subdue them by giving them overhead cover.

New methods
Both Marine Harvest and Organic Sea Harvest, with site applications for fish farms in areas where lice numbers have been “high”, have been asked to bring in whatever new methods for combatting sea lice that become available, as the current arsenal — apart from not having been effective enough for regulators — isn’t entirely deployable in the narrower lochs and is the sole reason for freezing maximum allowable biomass at new or enlarged fish-farms. New rules will likely no longer link biomass to seabed sediment.

In its application, Organic Sea Harvest showed local groups and regulators plans to deploy the Tubenot anti-lice netting on its new farm sites. Placed in the middle of a net-pen, they keep salmon from swimming in the upper water column preferred by sea lice, while allowing enough space for salmon’s daily surfacing for “air”.


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