Plans are being put together to create Scotland’s first ocean fish farm.
Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) is looking to trial the project as part of efforts to push to maximise fish survival and minimise environmental footprint.
The salmon grower would follow SalMar ASA, which established the world’s first offshore fish farm in Norway in 2017.
Jim Gallagher, SSF managing director, said: “We put a great deal of time and care into identifying the best farming locations, both in terms of finding the optimum growing conditions and ensuring that the local marine environment can naturally sustain such activity.
“Over recent years, the scope of this work has widened to include the potential of more exposed locations – locations that could add to the volumes of salmon grown at our existing 42-strong farming estate.
“For this ambition to be realised, however, we need an engaged, robust and forward-thinking regulatory framework that enables Scotland’s salmon farmers to continue growing in a responsible manner and helps the sector reclaim its competitiveness on the world stage.
“With this in mind, we’re eager to take the next step by opening the dialogue with Marine Scotland, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) and local authorities to see if this ambition is matched and if our aspiration of piloting a full-scale ‘ocean farm’ can be realised.”
The multi-million-pound funding needed to develop the concept, if given the go-ahead, would be provided by SSF’s Norwegian owner Norskott Havbruk AS.
SalMar ASA’s ocean farm cost £60 million and had strong first crop results with high survival, high quality and consistently low lice levels.
Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is exactly the kind of landmark inward investment opportunity that Scotland needs to thrive and grow, and I am determined that we seize that opportunity.
“The potential benefits of farming in deeper, more exposed locations have been raised many times over recent years by all sides of the debate.
“So to see Scottish Sea Farms step forward and commit the time and investment involved in exploring that potential here is hugely welcome news.
“Such a concept, if realised, promises significant advances in fish welfare and environmental protection, not forgetting new jobs and business for Scotland, and as such it is something that the Scottish Government is keen to progress in partnership with the relevant regulatory and local authorities.”