Scottish Sea Farms splashes out with £35m investment

A salmon on the River Tweed near Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre, Selkirk. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
A salmon on the River Tweed near Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre, Selkirk. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) is to more than double production by investing £35 million in a “transformational” freshwater hatchery near Oban, to help meet leaping global demand.

The firm, one of Scotland’s top seafood producers, exporting salmon to more than 20 countries, said the move will help it “deliver ambitious plans for sustainable growth” and is part of its scheduled £70m spend over the next few years.

Its purchase of the Marine Resource Centre site at Barcaldine will create up to 25 permanent, skilled jobs, and it hopes to begin work there later this year after consultation with the local community on how to help growth in the area.

SSF, which has more than 440 staff, said it intends to build a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) there for rearing young salmon, known as smolts, until they are ready to transfer to sea farms.

The first fish reared in the new facility, which will use 90 per cent less water than traditional freshwater sites, are set to enter the water in 2019.

Jim Gallagher, SSF managing director, said that after a search across Scotland, the purchased site “offers an ideal location”. He added: “We have ambitious plans for sustainably growing the volumes of salmon we produce to meet increased global demand for premium Scottish salmon.”

He said the new facility will be “transformational” for SSF, raising our production of smolts from 5 million to 11 million annually, and helping us to meet the rising global demand for our premium Scottish salmon and to grow our harvest volumes and revenues sustainably.

“It will also further increase our contribution to Scotland’s economic prosperity and the development of our coastal communities.

Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity, welcomed the investment, saying: “It demonstrates long-term confidence in the future of the farmed salmon sector in Scotland and reinforces our reputation as a great place to do business.

“Scotland’s world-class fish farming sector generates £1.86 billion of economic activity every year and supports 8,300 jobs, playing a pivotal role in the rural communities, such as those in the Oban area, where the industry operates.”

He also said the “underlines Scottish aquaculture’s excellent potential” for “further sustainable growth”.

David Smart, head of special projects with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in Argyll, was in talks with the company over the plans, describing the announcement as “great news”.

SSF, jointly owned by Norwegian firms Leroy Seafood Group and SalMar, in May announced a £900,000 order for fish pens from Argyll-based Fusion Marine, and in April agreed a contract, worth about the same amount, with Gael Force Group for a new feed barge and mooring system.

Its main markets are the UK, France and the US.