Hundreds of people have signed a petition against a proposed fish farm at Hawk’s Neb, while the applicant has promised community engagement and to be a “good neighbour”.
The petition has been set-up by Buteiful Coasts, which is worried about the impact Dawnfresh Farming’s application will have on the views, land, waters, tourism and industry of the island.
Theresa Nelson from the club, which has successfully fought past fish farm applications in the area, said: “We are about trying to raise awareness of the waters around Bute. They get used all the time for yachting, kayaking, swimming.
“Now here is another application we will fight against. There are currently quite a few applications in the local area. And they want to double the one at Loch Striven.
“If all the current fish farm applications are approved the whole of the River Clyde will become disaster area right up to Glasgow.
“The hard thing for the community is they kind of know there is something not quite right but the only grounds the council will accept our objections on is visual impact.
“This application is on isolated coastline. We have so much at stake as far as tourism goes. Over 25 per cent of jobs in Argyll and Bute come from tourism.
“You get a few people say ‘what about jobs it brings’. But when you say how many farms are planned they respond ‘no we don’t want that’.”
Theresa believes more information is needed before more fish farms are approved across Scotland.
She said: “A cross-party group is looking into fish farming. Everything about it, they have asked for more information.
“Nobody is accountable. Only two of the 100 or so fish farms have that accreditation.
I had no idea. They keep putting these farms around the county but there is a lack of knowledge about the chemicals they use.
“A lot of people have questioned sustainability. If you look at the council’s local development plan they talk about sustainability, but they are putting wind farms and fish farms all over the place. It destroys people’s faith in believing the people in charge.”
Theresa spoke more about the impact the fish farm near Kilchattan Bay could have on tourism and jobs.
She said: “Down on that part of the island you wouldn’t be able to sail within a kilometre of it. The amount of yachts that sail around here in the summer time is unbelievable. They will have to avoid this area or change their route.
“The applicants are promising six jobs at each site, but there are two lobstermen in the area. So their six jobs will take out two jobs right away, so it’s only four jobs really.
“And, this new fish farm will be right on the West Island Way path, where it starts. I have spoken to people on the path and they were dead against it. Not only people from the island but tourists as well.”
Kilchattan Bay resident Liz Wren made it clear that locals do not welcome the proposal.
She said: “We need tourism badly in our village, we have businesses that depend on it, holiday lets etc.
“We need to rely on our bay and village to be a safe haven for children and families to enjoy as they have for centuries.
“The rocks and sandy beach will become polluted as the currents bring the faeces from tons of fish to our doorstep.
“And our Old Quay is at risk. It’s the hub of the village and used continuously by swimmers, not for use of fish farm transport boats.
“Kilchattan Bay does not welcome DawnFresh.”
Defending the fish farm planning application, Dawnfresh environmental manager Peter MacDougall said: “One of the reasons Dawnfresh has started engagement with the local community in Bute and around our other sites is because we feel there is a great deal of misunderstanding about how a fish farm operates.
“For example, all Dawnfresh fish farms are externally audited annually by four separate independent auditors in relation to the accreditations we hold.
“We are also audited annually by our supermarket customers for their in-house supplier quality accreditations.
“Furthermore, we are assessed annually by SEPA, the results of which are made public, and for 2017 and 2018 all of Dawnfresh’s sites in Scotland were rated good or excellent.
“As part of our consultation at this stage, we will be staging an all-day drop-in session for people to come and ask us any questions they might have and to try and address any concerns honestly and openly. We have also extended an invitation, via the community council, for a group to come and visit our site at Loch Etive so they can see how a trout farm operates for themselves.
“If this sites is granted permission then we want to be a good neighbour to everyone in the local area and to support the local community and are sure people on Bute and elsewhere will welcome that approach.
“While Dawnfresh understands the concerns regarding tourism, the evidence does not support the assertion that the presence of a fish farm would have a negative impact.
“Tourism in the west of Scotland has grown steadily over a time period when the aquaculture industry has also grown and now some remote areas where aquaculture is present are experiencing issues with regards infrastructure to accommodate the large number of visitors.”
For more information about the campaign against the fish farm and to sign the petition click here.