The new high-tech salmon hatchery at Girlsta was today officially opened, marking a major achievement in the local seafood sector.
The large £15 million development has created 16 highly-trained new jobs. It will operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Fully fitted with modern equipment, the factory allows the Shetland branch of fish farming company Grieg Seafoods to produce smolts in the isles rather than having them transported from elsewhere in Scotland.
The opening also marks a success story for local contractors, who have played a big part in the plant’s development and build.
Regional director of Grieg Seafood Hjaltland, Sigurd Pettersen, welcomed the official opening, which was attended by Grieg board members, SIC councillors and others.
“It is a very significant day for the company. We are opening a completely new world for us,” he told The Shetland Times.
“We are reducing our carbon footprint. We don’t have to pick up fish on the west coast of Scotland and bring them here. We have massively reduced mortality. Everything is good about it.”
Tucked away by the loch of Girlsta, the new plant – which began operating last year – sits on the site of a former hatchery. But the new smolt hall alone is three times bigger than the old hatchery.
“The old hatchery is just now 25 per cent of what we are doing at the moment,” Mr Pettersen added.
“We brought in eggs in August last year, and we shipped the first fish out in the beginning of May this year.”
He said the operation had already made a significant contribution to the local economy.
“There are 16 jobs. Because there was fifteen and a half million [pounds] to build, 60 per cent of that went to local contractors.
“We will be one of the major consumers of power in this part of the island. It will ensure our capacity to provide our factory in Gremista with salmon when we need it. It makes it possible for us to plan on a much grander scale that we have ever done before.”