Jobs, community benefit and Slipway opportunities: SCT backs new fish farms

STAFFIN Community Trust (SCT) has reiterated its backing for two new organic salmon farms, before the proposals come before Highland councillors for planning permission.

The SCT is supportive of the proposed fish farms at Tote and Culnacnoc and has highlighted the economic and social benefits to the district, which is classed as “fragile” by the Scottish Government. Fourteen fish-farming jobs will be created along with direct community benefit and additional infrastructure investment at Staffin’s harbour if the planning outcome is positive.

Highland Council’s north planning committee will consider the proposals, which were lodged by Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) last year, at its meeting in Inverness on Tuesday, April 17.

OSH will produce and package a high quality, locally branded product in Staffin before wholesaling to major retailers as organic Skye salmon. These processes could create 38 additional jobs as well as further indirect supply and service jobs.

SCT proposes to move forward with further development of the Staffin Slipway and surrounding infrastructure to create opportunities for marine tourism, fishing and the leisure industry, on the strength of this project.

To demonstrate its commitment to the community, OSH has agreed to make annual payments to the SCT, which will result in at least £140,000 becoming available for further investment in this community.

As a coastal crofting community, Staffin has a rich affiliation with the sea but has now seen a generation who have not benefited from employment associated with fishing. This development presents a real and exciting opportunity for the community to re-establish those ties and create sustained economic growth for years to come.

Staffin Slip.

SCT has noted comments from planning objectors, claiming:

  1. 1. The people for these jobs will not be found in Staffin
  2. 2. Tourism will be irrevocably damaged
  3. 3. This development represents a threat to the local environment

SCT views this as a fantastic opportunity to use these potential jobs to lure people who were brought up in Staffin back home, attract new families and employ people from our neighbouring communities in Kilmuir, Uig and Portree.

  • Staffin cannot be overly reliant on one industry, such as tourism, and the creation and diversification of our local economy into aquaculture is hugely beneficial for our community’s sustainability.
  • SCT has a proud track record of caring for, and preserving our unique environment as demonstrated through the Skye Ecomuseum project, native tree planting, repairing eroded pathways, membership of the Skye Fossil Communication Loop, beach cleans etc. SCT has noted that the government’s environmental regulators Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage do not object to these fish farms, nor does the Skye District Salmon Fishery Board.

SCT is of the view that the majority of its membership is in support of this development and would highlight to councillors that the bulk of objections come from outwith the SCT’s boundaries. SCT represents the 23 crofting townships of the district of Staffin, between Storr and Flodigarry. The fish farm proposals are also supported by the local MP Ian Blackford and MSP Kate Forbes.

SCT would encourage the planning committee’s members, some of whom have Staffin within their ward, to consider these applications positively and empower this community to achieve its untapped potential. Community empowerment sets out guidance for communities to seek and engage their own destiny by encouraging decision makers, such as the council, to fully consider their wishes and desires and encourage local autonomy.

The key differences between organic and conventional fish farm production are set out in the company’s Environmental Statement. OSH has highlighted the lower stocking densities of fish, its intention not to use anti-foulant chemicals on nets or cages and extended fallow periods when the cages are kept deliberately empty. OSH will also use wrasse and lumpfish (types of fish) within the cages to control sea lice.