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Hundreds create human chain on Isle of Arran to protest proposed new fish farm

© James AppletonPost Thumbnail

Hundreds of people created a large-scale human-chain on the Isle of Arran to protest against a proposed fish farm off the untouched north-east coast of the island.

Around 200 people turned up to create the chain on Sunday in protest against the Scottish Salmon Company’s proposal to create a new large-scale farm in one of Scotland’s protected National Scenic Areas.

According to local environmentalists, sewage and waste from the farm would cause “significant harm,” to wildlife and the surrounding eco-system.

Many locals also believe the farm would harm tourism on the island, with much of its marketing based around pristine waters, unique wildlife and a clean environment.

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), a local marine environment group who supported Sunday’s demonstration, has been campaigning against the farm since proposals were first brought forward last year.

“We see no sustainable economic value coming to Arran, only long term damage to our environment and reputation and therefore our tourist industry and our businesses,”  said Paul Chandler, executive director of COAST.

“This farm will put untreated waste continually into the waters equivalent to a town the size of Troon; killing the seabed and damaging our wildlife.

“Let us see the Scottish Salmon Company investing their millions in land based aquaculture to still make use of the Scottish quality brand and use vacant, derelict brownfield and abandoned farm sites, and light industrial sites to farm salmon sustainably, without infecting our seas and precious wildlife  with waste, lice and disease.

“We’re all for fishing, but it has to be sustainable and not at the expense of our environment.”

Fish farming is worth around £1 billion to the Scottish economy, with salmon the country’s top food export.

The Scottish Salmon Company employs around 650 people across the Western Isles, with the new Arran fish farm promising to bring 10 jobs to the site.

They held talks back in April and May with the Arran community about the proposed site, however the talks were met with fury and protests by many locals.

Rebecca Early, a teacher at Arran High School, helped to organise the human chain on Sunday.

“As an English teacher at Arran High school I feel passionately that everyone, including our young people, should have access to unspoilt nature and a voice in these discussions,” she said.

“85% of my students did not know about the proposed fish farm and definitely were unaware of the negative impacts it will have on marine life such as porpoise and whales.

“The human chain is a powerful and positive visual symbol of a small community united in opposition to corporate self interested big business who are only interested in profit.”

The idea behind the human chain was brought forward by Clair Fraser, who wanted to convey the size of the farm through visual means on land.

“The idea of a human chain was inspired by the brave protestors in Hong Kong and we took it to guys at COAST who loved the idea too,” she said.

“We thought it would be a great way to translate the scale of the proposed fish farm.

“There is a perception that the Scottish Salmon Company are using the remote location to benefit from an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset and we want people to be aware of the size, and impact, of the potential problem.”

The Arran community established Scotland’s first, and still, only, designated No Take Zone in 2008 and secured the creation of Arran’s Marine Protected Area in 2014.

The proposed farm would be situated next to Arran’s popular Coastal Way along a shore renowned for basking sharks, otters and seals.

Objections by the public to the farm must be lodged by the end of the month to North Ayrshire Council, who will make the final decision on the site.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “The application is currently scheduled to be considered by the council’s planning committee towards the end of this year.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Salmon Company said:  “We have received supportive feedback from residents on Arran about our proposals which represent a significant investment that will help strengthen the local economy and deliver enhanced community and social benefits.

“Up to 10 additional full time members of staff will be recruited to the site, which will add an additional £10 million to the economy annually once operational. The site will also support an additional 51 jobs across our Scottish supply chain and 10 jobs in the wider economy.

“The environment and health of our fish are fundamental to our business and this proposal has innovation at its heart to deliver a responsible and sustainable development.  State-of-the-art pens combined with enhanced environmental management techniques will be used to safeguard fish welfare and minimise environmental impacts.

“We have listened to the views of local residents throughout the planning process and engaged widely with stakeholders in an open dialogue about our proposals.”