SCOTLAND’S rural economy minister, Fergus Ewing, learnt about advances being made in offshore salmon farming during a recent trip to Orkney.
The minister visited Cooke Aquaculture’s Kirkwall base to hear about progress at the company’s new, high energy site at East Skelwick in Westray.
Granted planning permission last summer, the farm is 2.5km offshore, and is equipped with durable technology that can withstand sustained exposure to high wind and wave loads.
The new site will consist of eight pens measuring 130 metres in circumference, the largest currently used in Scotland.
There will also be a wave measurement buoy, a weather station incorporating hydrographic sensors, and real-time environmental sensors.
They have been procured with assistance from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), negotiated by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) with Marine Scotland, according to a SAIC press release.
Ewing said: ‘Cooke are championing innovative approaches to sustainably growing the Scottish aquaculture industry, and are a fantastic example of what can be achieved in Scotland when there is a combination of vision and wider support.
‘It was great to see yet another example of how the aquaculture sector is adapting and being innovative when thinking about sustainable growth, and I wish them all the best moving forward.’
Colin Blair, managing director of Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, said: ‘To maximise the data gained from the new site, wind, wave and hydrographic conditions will be monitored in real-time, alongside routine farm operational observations.
‘This enables the resilience of cages and moorings, site accessibility and salmon performance to be correlated with the prevailing physical conditions, including any extreme weather events.’
The experience gained by Cooke at the East Skelwick site will be shared with the wider fish farming community.
Dr Robin Shields, senior aquaculture innovation manager at SAIC, said his organisation was ‘delighted’ with the progress at Cooke’s high energy site.
‘We will liaise with Cooke Aquaculture to help ensure that the important data from these instruments is interpreted fully, allowing a more accurate assessment of site performance.
‘This will give the industry good, usable information for these types of sites going forward.’
Developing more high energy sites will help the industry to expand, and other farmers, including Marine Harvest, have sited new farms in increasingly exposed areas.
Picture: Fergus Ewing (second right) with Christopher Webb, Cooke environmental and development manager; Vicci Laird, head of HR; Stewart Rendall, Westray/East Skelwick manager; and Robert Peterson, Orkney area manager.