New seaweed collaboration a first for Scottish salmon producer

Editorial Staff

“One of the key points about farmed seaweed is you get a very clean product whereas when you gather it you have to remove plastic.”

SalMar-backed salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has teamed up with a seaweed growing venture in a scheme that combines salmon and kelp farming on Loch Spelve, in the Sound of Mull.

The aim of the year-long pilot is to enrich and replenish the marine environment, feeding into the company’s work to minimise any impact from its farming activities.

The farm, which had been fallowed, was chosen as a suitable testing ground in the collaboration between Scottish Sea Farms and businessman and writer Guy Grieve, who ran the Ethical Shellfish Company from Mull and now plans to produce commercial quantities of sugar kelp, to be used in garden compost.

©Andrew MacLeannan, Scottish Sea Farms – seaweed, Loch Spelve

The seaweed lines, installed last October, produced encouraging growth over the winter, and this month four 90m pens will be stocked with salmon.

The mutual benefits of growing salmon and kelp in the same waters have been shown in multi-trophic aquaculture projects elsewhere, said Scottish Sea Farms Head of Sustainability and Development Anne Anderson.

Already tested in Norway

‘Seaweed is so beneficial in so many ways for the marine environment. As a plant, it absorbs carbon dioxide, while releasing oxygen. It’s a bit like planting trees to offset your carbon footprint.

‘And some of the organic nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, from salmon farming are absorbed to help nourish the kelp. It will be interesting to see if we get more seaweed growth once we put the salmon in.’

Scottish Sea Farms sought permission from Crown Estate Scotland for the trial and talks are now underway to amend the farming lease to cultivate seaweed longer term.

Salmon farmers in Norway, including Lerøy and SalMar which co-own Scottish Sea Farms, have hosted seaweed farming businesses adjacent to some of their farms.

And in an earlier trial, Scottish Sea Farms pioneered seaweed settlement within salmon pens to replace artificial hides for cleaner fish. The project, at Scallastle, resulted in improved health and welfare for both the salmon and wild wrasse, a species of cleaner fish.

In Loch Spelve, Area Support Manager for Mull Andrew MacLeannan worked with Guy and Mull-based Inverlussa Marine Services to install four 750m of seaweed lines (a total of 3km), seeded by Dutch supplier Hortimare, and tied the lines to the raised salmon pen grid.

Atlantic Garden

‘We plan to stock the farm with 7kg fish, from Fishnish in the Sound of Mull, so this will only be a four or five-month cycle, not the full 18 months,’ he said.

‘Loch Spelve is sheltered so ideal for seaweed, which doesn’t like strong currents, but the environmental conditions have been challenging for salmon production in the past, particularly for gill health.

‘We will be looking to see if the seaweed trial has been successful from a salmon farming point of view by taking daily water samples, before and after the salmon are stocked, and checking for levels of plankton, which can impact the gills.’

Grieve, who runs Atlantic Garden, supplying seaweed-rich compost to gardeners, wanted to start producing seaweed at scale in Scotland to complement the seaweed gathered from harbours.

‘One of the key points about farmed seaweed is you get a very clean product whereas when you gather it you have to remove plastic,’ he said.


‘I had fished out of Loch Spelve for 12 years and it struck me as immediately obvious that the best partners for this should be someone like Scottish Sea Farms, for the simple reason that for decades they have been working at sea, through thick and thin, and through every kind of weather.

‘I approached Regional Manager Innes Weir and he was very supportive. We all recognised that seaweed is beneficial for the environment in different ways and agreed to look at it more closely.’

Grieve plans to keep the crop in the water until the summer to harvest as much biomass as possible, up to 30 tons, all being well.

‘We should get 8-10 kilos per metre of seeded line but this is a pilot so we don’t know what to expect yet. I look forward to what we learn from this trial and what our next steps will be.’

Atlantic Garden is donating 20p from every bag of seaweed compost it sells to the Scottish Coastal Clean-up.


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