WEATHER damage to an offshore salmon farm off Barra in the Outer Hebrides in November caused the escape of 24,572 fish. The incident, at Marine Harvest’s Hellisay sea site, was reported to Marine Scotland.
The company said notification of the sustained storm event and potential for escape were reported on November 11, and confirmed when staff were able to safely access the site to investigate and repair the damage and carry out an inventory of the fish population.
The investigation and recount confirmed that 24,572 salmon, weighing approximately 1.1kg, escaped from a netting tear to one cage. The remaining stocked cages did not suffer significant damage.
No staff were injured during the multiple storm events. The salmon held on site have since been moved to other farming locations on Uist in order to secure the stock.
The equipment on site was new, robust and exceeded the Scottish Technical Standards, but suffered due to the high wave heights experienced in the storm events. The farm was among the first of the company’s new offshore sites.
‘We are very disappointed that our infrastructure was unable to withstand these severe weather challenges,’ said Gideon Pringle, operations director (farming).
‘Our priority is to keep our employees safe during these extreme events, but admittedly need to do a better job at keeping our fish contained, especially at our high energy sites.’
The company will review the site’s moorings, nets and cages used at offshore locations, and make the necessary changes to ensure the site can effectively withstand the most challenging weather conditions.
The company’s last sizeable escape occurred June 2015 at its Eilean Grianain salmon farm.