Salmon giant Mowi offers to close ‘contentious’ farms

Mowi, the world’s largest salmon farming company, has offered to close two of its “contentious” Scottish salmon farm sites in return for permission to relocate them to offshore locations “more appropriate for modern day aquaculture.”

Mowi said the sites will be closed permanently “conditional to the support from our regulatory system to transfer the biomass to other locations, and to sustainably expand our production in the best possible areas for salmon farming.”

Mowi, formerly known as Marine Harvest, said: “Loch Ewe and Loch Duich are two sites the company has identified as candidates for relocation due to the enclosed nature of the sea lochs where the farms are situated and the sites’ proximity to sensitive wild salmonid habitats.”

Ben Hadfield, managing director of Mowi Scotland, said: “Mowi has strived to improve relations with the wild fish sector and has been clear that it will seek to expand its operations in Scotland, whilst securing reduced impact on the environment and further developing the significant economic contribution that it makes to rural Scotland.

“In absence of a regulatory framework that enables relocation of a farm’s biomass, we are wanting to engage with our government, environmental groups and salmon fishery boards to pursue this opportunity.

“The sites will be closed permanently conditional to the support from our regulatory system to transfer the biomass to other locations, and to sustainably expand our production in the best possible areas for salmon farming thus protecting the associated jobs.”

Mowi Scotland’s parent firm Mowi ASA is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon and had turnover of €3.8 billion in 2018.

Mowi ASA is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE) and its shares also trade on the US OTC market.

Mowi’s head of environmental management Stephen MacIntyre said: “We want to align our growth plans with the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee (RECC) recent recommendations and have plans to sustainably grow our fish production levels over the next few years by expanding into new high-energy farming areas located further offshore.”

The RECC report recommended the Scottish Government discuss with salmon farm companies the potential to minimise risk to wild salmon and to improve the locations of existing farms and grow production in a sustainable way.

Mowi also has two new salmon farming locations off the shores of the Isle of Muck and the Isle of Rum.

Bill Whyte, convener for Wester Ross Area Salmon Fishery Board, said: “We welcome Mowi’s recognition that enclosed sea lochs near to sensitive wild salmonid habitat can increase localised impact on wild salmonids.

“We will expect further clarity about the process of biomass relocation, however, if Mowi can provide evidence through EIA planning and Sepa regulatory structure that the relocated biomass will have reduced potential impact on wild migratory fish, then we would be prepared to support biomass relocation on a conditional basis.” 

Mowi Scotland’s Hadfield added: “We have spoken to farm staff at both locations to assure them their employment can continue with the company at other new or expanded locations.

“Our ambition is to close contentious locations, jointly working with wild fishery managers.

“We will create increased employment and retain our experienced and dedicated staff, and we will work with west coast Scottish communities to release all the value from farming Mowi salmon in the best possible locations.  

“Success for this relocation initiative will be a net increase in production, a net increase in export value for Scotland and a net reduction in our environmental footprint at sensitive locations.

“Scotland’s potential exit from the EU is challenging for us, and as a major and growing employer in the country, we will do our utmost to retain and develop our experienced staff.”