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Mission Statement:  Jobs, Community, Conservation

During the period October 2011 to November 2015, four open-net fish farm planning applications were received by Highland Council for Loch Slapin and Loch Eishort.  Following due process of determination by the Aquaculture Planning Officer with input from Statutory Consultees and the Community, two applications were refused by Planning Committee with the other two eventually being withdrawn by the applicants.

Key areas (amongst others) of determination included:
Reduction of the local creel fishermen’s safe prawn fishing grounds.
Community concern of visual, amenity and well-being values the lochs provide.
Negative impact on the rich biodiversity (maerl, sea grass and priority marine features).
Negative impact on wild salmonids from sea lice infestation and disease.
Nutrient enrichment and pollution caused by fish faeces, excess feed and chemical treatments.

It could be argued therefore that the South Skye lochs do not provide appropriate location parameters for industrial-sized open-net fish farms.  It is acknowledged, however, that fish farms do provide much-needed local employment and recognising the under-utilisation of the local marine environment, SSSi wanted to explore and possibly implement strategies offering ecologically sustainable commercial activities working in collaboration with existing users of the lochs (mobile and static fishermen, mussel farmer), conservation measures and community engagement avoiding any conflict of interest, i.e. a zonal working model where all interested parties will benefit.

SSSi recognise the gathering of species and benthic habitat data is an essential part of being able to develop these strategies.  SNH and Marine Conservation Society Sea Search support have already provided valuable data which we hope to build on by means of community-led underwater surveys.  This data will assist us in developing a Zonal Map of the seabed which will inform us in identifying development opportunities, conservation etc. whilst fully accommodating existing users of the lochs and engaging with the community.

Some of our key aspirations include kelp farming on ropes, scallop ranching and marine tourism opportunities including wild swimming, snorkel trails and sub-aqua.  Working in collaboration with all interested parties, we aim to have open-discussions and welcome the opportunity to do so.

 SOME IDEAS 

Some of the best marine biodiversity in the UK
Ecological conservation
Teaching and learning
Biological surveys
Wildlife tourism
Water quality
Enhanced local economy
Improve local rivers

Fabulous landscapes, appreciated by locals and visitors
Accommodation, food and drink
Tasteful improvements to access and interpretation
Rivers once again support angling
Diving and kayaking
Human wellbeing
Enhanced local economy

Support for local enterprises
Ecologically sustainable enterprise: prawn creeling, mussel, oyster and kelp farming, scallop ranching
Tourism facilities
Small scale closed-containment fish farming: aquaponics
Good food produced lcocally: food yards, rather than food miles
Improved local employment prospects
Enhanced local economy