The Scottish Wildlife Trust has objected to Scottish Sea Farms’ proposed fish farm development off Wester Ross, north-west Scotland.
The company has applied to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) for a licence to site a 12-cage salmon farm close to Horse Island in the Summer Isles.
The Trust, a not-for-profit organisation, says it is concerned that waste material generated by the farm would damage several fragile protected features within the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area, including maerl beds, northern feather stars and kelp forests.
These important habitats act as nurseries for a range of marine wildlife including economically important species such as scallops and lobsters, the Trust says in its objection. A number of the threatened habitats are also increasingly recognised as vital stores of blue carbon. Maerl, a type of algae similar to coral, can lock up carbon on the seabed for thousands of years.
Dr Sam Collin, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s living seas manager said: “We support sustainable aquaculture and we want to see Scotland’s fish farming sector operating in a way that is compatible with a thriving marine environment.
“The site proposed by Scottish Sea Farms is entirely unsuitable due to its proximity to important protected habitats. These plans pose a serious threat to marine wildlife, stores of blue carbon, and the local creel fishing industry.
“Scotland is facing a biodiversity and climate crisis. Protecting the health of Scotland’s seas with an effective network on protected areas is increasingly important. Allowing this salmon farm to go ahead when it threatens so many of the features which should be safeguarded by the Marine Protected Area would set a worrying precedent.”