30th March 2017

Salmon farm loses 154,000 fish due to storms

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Stormy weather over January caused extensive damage to a major salmon farming site in Yell – three years after 12 salmon cages went adrift in Christmas storms.

More than 154,000 fish were lost when a site owned by Meridian Salmon Group was battered by what has been described as “the worst conditions” to hit the isle in decades.

Diving teams had to work in “very demanding” conditions during the wet and windy new year period to repair damage caused by a major failure in mooring equipment.

Fish from three cages were removed during an early salvage exercise, but that was not enough to prevent the losses occurring.

A full report on the incident has been sent to Marine Scotland.

Meridian say a full review will be carried out to help prevent a repeat of the incident.

The company’s seawater production director, Colin Blair, said talks were due to take place between the company and mooring manufacturers.

“We can confirm that our Ness of Copister farming site on Yell, Shetland, suffered serious damage as a result of the sustained, severe storms that have hit the region.

“Gale force winds and large swells caused a major failure of the mooring equipment which subsequently damaged a number of the eight cages on the site.

“Staff – including diving teams – have been working in very demanding conditions during the continued extreme weather to carry out repair and salvage operations and to try to assess the impact of the incident.

“There was in excess of 364,000 fish on the farm. Fish from three of the cages were safely removed during the initial salvage exercise.

“However, after weather conditions relented to allow a thorough site assessment, it has been determined that 154,569 fish were lost. All remaining fish on the site have also been removed to new locations.

“Marine Scotland has been kept fully informed of the incident.

“While it is widely accepted that we were dealing with exceptional weather conditions – local reports indicate the unrelenting gales that have battered the east coast of Yell are the worst in decades – losses like this are not acceptable and we will be carrying out a full review of our systems to ensure we have no similar incidents in the future.

“This will include discussions with mooring manufacturers and other mooring experts, after which, any recommendations for improvement will be implemented at the earliest opportunity.”

Three years ago 12 salmon cages owned by Meridian Salmon went adrift in waters south of Unst during harsh Christmas storms, prompting an investigation by Marine Scotland.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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