A shellfish site off Trondra has been allowed to increase in size after being given the go-ahead by Shetland Islands Council.
East Voe Shellfish Ltd applied for planning permission to increase the length of four 200-metre twin headline longlines to 220 metres, retrospectively, as well as adding two 220-metre headrope longlines to the north of the existing mussel site at Whalsies Ayre in Stream Sound, south of Trondra.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association had initially objected to any extension as it thought it would inhibit the passage of vessels using the area.
Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation also raised similar concerns, although both bodies withdrew their objections after speaking to the applicant.
Scottish National Heritage and Marine Scotland had no objections but Burra and Trondra Community Council raised concerns about safe navigation through the shallow water channel. Members said they would rather see no more in the area.
The main objection arising from consultations came from the RSPB which argued that the development would mean exceeding the “carrying capacity” of the area.
Carrying capacity refers to the amount of shellfish than can be sustained within an area of water.
The SIC assesses applications for shellfish sites within an area of water based on its biological capacity.
The application had come in front of council planners earlier this year but was refused as it broke council rulings.
A report before members of the SIC planning committee on Tuesday stated: “The proposal is in breach of S7 as the Shetland Islands Council’s biological carrying capacity model indicates the body of water known as Stream Sound can support a total farmed biomass of 25.28 tonnes.
“The applicant’s proposal of having six 220-metre twin headline longlines deployed sequentially of two each year over three years is calculated to be capable of
producing around 71.5 tonnes of mussels, which is higher than 182.83 higher than carrying capacity.”
An appeal was heard on Tuesday in a bid to pass through the application.
East Voe Shellfish director Kenny Pottinger argued that he did not believe there would be any negative impact on carrying capacity.
He said he had farmed in the area for years and also owned other sites in the area so any detriment would be to his own farms.
Mr Pottinger provided the council with a hydrographic report and argued he was not increasing biomass on the site.
He also told planning committee members that his annual tonnage of mussels would not increase.
The two new lines, he said, were to allow a continued use of the site, with a harvest every year. The increase in line length was to allow the lines to stretch, with the same number of “droppers” for the mussels and no increase in biomass.
Mr Pottinger argued that the model used by the SIC was designed for voes, and did not provide an accurate results to a sound because of the difference in tidal flow.
“I’m down there every few days and I can see the water moving. I can see the tide and I ken the tide,” he said.
“I have had 120 tonnes off two different lines in that area and the mussels are still bigger than what the market wants it to be.”
Mr Pottinger said the year he yielded 120 tonnes “droppers were averaging about 9.4 kilos per metre and normally a really good dropper averages about six kilos a metre”.
Councillors backed proposals to increase the site.
Lerwick South member Peter Campbell moved to approve the application and he was seconded by Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison.
Mr Campbell said: “I think two very significant players – Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland – are not likely to oppose anything that they would deem detrimental to the environment and have chosen not to raise any objections.
“I think the objection that has been made from an outside
body [the RSPB] is a standard
one. It just comes through every time.
“If the tonnage on the site is not going to be annually greater than it is at present … then we are not increasing the annual output of the site.”