Salmon firm makes leap across pond

A Loch Duart salmon leaping in the nets. Picture: Stephen Mansfield
A Loch Duart salmon leaping in the nets. Picture: Stephen Mansfield
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THE salmon farming company that supplied the fish on the menu at the Royal Wedding has invested in a new site and brand in Nova Scotia, Canada, after reaching “the limits of growth” in Scotland.

Loch Duart, based in Sutherland and the Hebrides, currently produces 5,600 tonnes of salmon a year, but demand for its products in the United States has risen to the extent that a North American site is now viable.

Snow Island Salmon, as the new brand will be known, will be a subsidiary joint venture of Loch Duart and will compete in the same market.

Fish from the South Uist sites of the firm was served in Buckingham Palace after the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April last year.

Loch Duart has purchased an existing salmon farming site at Owls Head on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, and expects to increase its size over five to seven years to reach an equivalent volume of its Scottish presence.

The firm has a commitment to sustainability, with practices including leaving farms fallow for a year at a time, banning the use of fouling agents and carefully monitoring yield to avoid overwhelming stock.

Loch Duart opted for Canada because of the government’s and industry’s understanding and tolerance of sustainable practices, claiming the UK has a “lack of understanding” due to the fact that “almost no” food producers are represented in the Scottish Parliament.

Managing director Nick Joy, who has lived in Scotland for the past 35 years, said: “There are almost no food producers in the government, so there is a lack of understanding about how food is produced. Regulation without incentive is a carrot without a stick, and big sticks only work until you’re numb.”

The Snow Island site has been operational since 2008, and a group of expert Canadian salmon farmers who understand the different conditions of the country, including much colder water, will make up the workforce.

Its location also avoids the use of air freight to supply the North American market, which is currently Loch Duart’s only logistical option.

The US and Canada together comprise the largest market for salmon in the world.

Joy added: “There are lots of interesting challenges. Snow Island is not interested in having its headquarters in Scotland; there will be accountability on site.

“We hope to farm 18,000 tonnes from this site, equivalent to one of our sites in Scotland, and to support the brand by saying it is produced with Loch Duart’s methods. There is plenty of room in the market for a product made with the best methods and practices.”

Canada, he added, was an obvious choice. “I like the people and I like how they think. The government acknowledges the balance between sustainability and cost, and that a better form of salmon farming may take years.”