Salmon giant Morpol is looking to introduce Norwegian-standard mooring systems for its Meridian salmon farms in Shetland and Orkney after losing 12 cages off Unst in a Christmas storm.
The company has blamed the loss of equipment and 300,000 salmon on failed moorings. It said: “More robust systems are employed in Norway and their potential for use in Scotland is being assessed.”
Morpol said it still intends recovering the four cages which sank about 60 miles east of Shetland. The rest were towed ashore and broken up.
The whole episode cost the company £740,000 overall, after taking into account insured losses.
The company reported a difficult year after record high salmon prices plummeted to what it said was a historical low at the end of July before starting to recover again.
It plans to increase production from its Scottish farms, predominantly in Orkney and Shetland, which are run by its subsidiary Meridian Salmon Group. It hopes to increase its harvest from 20,800 tonnes last year to 23,000 tonnes this year, increasing to 25,000 tonnes next year.
Production capacity was boosted recently by the £3 million purchase of the Uyeasound Salmon Company, which operates five sites next to the site where the cages were lost from. It produces around 1,000 tonnes of salmon a year.
The company also faces a public relations problem with the prosecution of two managers from a West Side farm for alleged illegal culling of seals. They are currently suspended.
A brighter prospect for the Polish/Norwegian fish farmer and processor is a major experiment with the sea lice-eating fish Ballan wrasse. Meridian has had problems with the parasite at some of its Shetland sites, particularly on the West Side. It has now teamed up with the another salmon farmer, the Scottish Salmon Company, to introduce around 250,000 wrasse to their farms over the next three years, supplied by a small Argyll-based fish farmer, Otter Ferry Seafish.
Morpol believes the project is one of the first full-scale operations to farm and deploy wrasse in Scotland. The results are to be shared with the rest of the Scottish salmon industry.