BBC Today show host John Humphrys has revealed that he once swam beneath a salmon cage to inspect fish waste.
During an interview with Mowi Scotland director of communications Ian Roberts this morning, the veteran broadcaster made clear his opposition to salmon farming.
Quizzing Roberts about Mowi’s proposal to build a ‘huge’ farm off the coast of Canna in the Inner Hebrides, Humphrys said: ‘The amount of filth they deposit on the sea floor, on the loch floor or wherever they happen to be, is enormous isn’t it?
‘I’ve seen it myself, I’ve swum beneath salmon cages and it is absolutely horrifying…that’s my own word, other people might quarrel with it but, nonetheless, I was absolutely appalled by the depth and the extent of the filth on the floor.’
Humphrys said he had been scuba diving beneath a farm, but gave no further details.
Roberts explained that fish waste was organic and dispersed by the sea.
‘It is farming and whatever animal you farm you are going to have waste from that animal,’ he said.
‘We can agree to disagree and perhaps you dove 20 years ago and saw a bad actor in the business, but I can say that if you do it right, it’s a very sustainable business.
‘There’s a lot of organic waste in the sea from sea life; we are an addition to that and it needs to be carefully managed, and I would encourage people who might believe what you’re saying to see for themselves and visit a salmon farm and see what’s done to manage things like organic waste.’
Mowi was invited by the Canna Development Trust to investigate setting up a high energy site off the island, following the success of similar operations off the isles of Rum and Muck.
These farms are performing well and Mowi has addressed roads and housing issues in the communities, as well as assisting with freight – of both people and goods – and also improving connectivity, said Roberts.
The Canna proposal is for a 2,500 tonne organic farm with eight, 160m circumference pens, covering an area of more than 16,000 square metres.
If approved, the farm would provide 10 jobs on Canna, which is Scotland’s smallest inhabited island, with a population of just 18.
Mowi recently announced its intention to close two of its inshore farms –at Loch Duich and Loch Ewe – if it could relocate the biomass to alternative, higher energy sites.
Roberts said on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, in a second interview this morning: ‘This is the evolution of salmon farming. We just had a Scottish committee recommending that the government and industry work together to look at offshore locations in higher energy sites and this [Canna] fits that description and answers a lot of those concerns about localised impacts.
‘We think it’s a proper and good development, but in this process we will bring it towards the Development Trust of Canna and if they agree that the benefit far outweighs the risk then we’ll move to the second stage, which is applying for planning permission with the Highland Council.’
Scottish Natural Heritage has raised concerns about the potential environmental effects of the Canna development on marine life.
Roberts said: ‘We feel we have the ability, after 50 years of farming in these seas, to address these concerns, like we have in our other operations.’
Fish Farmer has asked the BBC where and when John Humphrys swam under a salmon farm.