John Finnie has urged the fish-farming company Marine Harvest not to site a proposed wrasse hatchery on the environmentally important Gauldrons near Machrihanish on Kintyre, and instead work with the community to find a more suitable local site.
Giving his backing to the local Save the Gauldrons campaign, John welcomed the investment and innovation represented by the project, but said that the proposed site’s great scenic value made it an unacceptable location for the development.
The proposal is a sizeable expansion of an existing project, run by Marine Harvest in partnership with the University of Stirling, that aims to develop the use of wrasse to control sea lice in salmon farms.
The high density of salmon in farms makes the cages ideal breeding ground for the lice, which feed on the living salmon and can completely destroy fins and tails. As the cages are open to the sea, the infestation easily spreads to wild salmon populations in the area. The chemical pesticides used to try to tackle lice also pass into the open sea, damaging local ecosystems.
It is hoped that introducing wrasse, which feed on lice, into the salmon cages could help to control sea lice while reducing the use of chemical pesticides.
The site identified for approximately 20,000 square meters of tanks and other facilities is on the aesthetically important Gauldrons, a coastal grassland that has inspired painters and songwriters, is recognised by Scottish Natural Heritage as an area of outstanding scenic attraction, and has been listed among Scotland’s best coastal walks.
The area also provides a habitat for a great many species including Lapwings, whose numbers have declined dramatically due to land-use changes.
“The partnership between Marine Harvest and the University of Stirling is a promising one. The use of wrasse instead of chemical pesticides to control lice could reduce the ecological damage caused by salmon farming, and the investment means much-needed jobs for Kintyre.
“However, the environmentally important Gauldrons are an unsuitable site for the development. Sacrificing the tremendous scenic beauty of the area would come at great cost, both to tourism and to the quality of life of the people of Machrihanish.
“I believe that, with sufficient will, we can deliver this project in a way that will secure jobs and investment for the area without giving up precious natural assets like the Gauldrons.”