The Salmon & Trout Association Scotland [S&TAS] has issued a warning that a proposed massive new rainbow trout farm on Loch Etive will pose an unacceptable additional threat to the integrity of Argyll’s premier wild salmon river.
Dawnfresh Farming Limited has reapplied for planning permission for a new rainbow trout farm in Loch Etive, a sea loch north-east of Oban.
The application is for ten 80 metre circumference fish cages just two miles from the mouth of the internationally renowned River Awe, which has an almost unparalleled reputation in Britain for leviathan salmon.
The 19th century’s most distinguished writer on salmon rivers, Augustus Grimble (1899), called the Awe the ‘premier and most renowned river in Scotland’. It has a legendary reputation for heavy salmon. With the exception of the River Tay (which has a catchment that is ten times bigger), the Awe has produced more angler-caught salmon over 50 lb (on fly) than any other British river.
This farm would massively increase the tonnage of rainbow trout, adding to the applicant’s five existing farms on Loch Etive.
While only slightly smaller than the original 14 cage application – withdrawn in July 2013 following substantial local protest – the new application retains most of the same features and S&TAS believes that it constitutes a significant and unacceptable escalation of fish-farming activity on Loch Etive.
Hughie Campbell Adamson, Chairman of S&TAS, says: ‘The rainbow trout farms in Loch Etive have a poor record for containing their stock. There have been numerous escapes in the past.
‘These large and voracious alien trout run up the River Awe where inevitably they eat the juvenile salmon, thus severely depleting the stocks of the native fish. [The copyrighted photograph above shows wild salmon parr (bottom) found in the stomach of an escaped rainbow trout (top) during the process of gutting the latter.]
‘There is a genuine risk that, should this predation not just continue but increase, we will see the further demise of one of Scotland’s great salmon rivers.
‘While we and others concentrate on protecting the environment for the benefit of our native fish, Dawnfresh seem to ignore the potential impact of their proposed expansion.
‘It may make economic sense to Dawnfresh to expand, but is the overall cost to the environment and to the area not considerably greater?’
Importantly, the Dawnfresh application runs contrary to the Loch Etive Coastal Zone Management Plan.
The S&TAS believes that the farm would threaten Loch Etive’s wildlife, wild fisheries, loch recreation, tourism and tourist businesses, all for the benefit of just one private company and at the expense of the local community.
By the applicant’s own admission, the new farm would create no new direct jobs.