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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
February 2011 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
The Jack Abry II aground on the northwest side of Rum.
A liferaft can be seen on the right.
FRENCH TRAWLER AGROUND ON RUM
A French vessel, Jack Abry II, grounded on rocks on Rum in the middle of the night of Monday 31st January.
In gale force winds the Mallaig Lifeboat battled out to the 46 metre long trawler but could not get close enough to rescue the crew, all fourteen of whom were subsequently winched to safety by the Rescue Helicopter.
The weather on scene four days after the incident was Force 7 winds from the south west with little hope of improvement, which hampered efforts to assess the damage. The fishing vessel crew reported that she had up to 140 tonnes of marine gas oil and 7000 litres of lubricating oil on board at the time of grounding.
When the salvage team boarded the casualty they observed that the engine room was flooded and the main engine submerged. The two fish holds were also flooded and contained oil indicating that the fuel tanks below had been breached. The vessel is surrounded by rocks and close up to the cliff face with a 35 - 40 degree list to port.
For safety reasons and in worsening weather the salvage team came off again in the afternoon. Salvage equipment continues to be mobilised from Holland.
Nets were removed from the boat on Monday 7th February, but Tuesday 8th was probably the last chance to take off the fuel and salvage anything else.
It seems there are no plans to remove the six year old vessel from the rocks.
Marine Scotland and the Scottish Environment Group are being continually updated and have advised that there are no immediate environmental concerns at the moment.
On Wednesday 2nd February, the skipper of the vessel, Xavier Leaute, appeared in Stornoway Sheriff Court and pleaded guilty to failing to maintain a proper lookout and safely navigate the Jack Abry II. He was fined £3000.
Thanks to Sean Morris of Rum for the photographs of the Jack Abry II aground on Rum.
Right: the Lifeboat can be seen at the top of the picture, standing off from the stricken vessel.
CRASH BARRIERS FOR THE A830
Plans to install crash barriers on the A830 along the side of Loch Eil have met with delays, but it is now hoped they will be erected next month.
There has been a number of accidents along the stretch of road between Lochailort and Rannochan, including the fatal accident in September which claimed the lives of Kirsty Bryden and Roddy MacInnes. Since then a local campaign has demanded crash barriers be erected and the surface of the road investigated.
Transport Scotland finally agreed in December to install the barriers after a protest march by over 100 people and intervention from MSP Dave Thomson. Representatives met with Mr Thomson, Kirsty and Roddy's parents, police and local supporters on Monday 7th February to confirm that they will erect the barriers as sson as possible.
John Bryden, Kirsty's father, says he was left very angry by the meeting, claiming that they have neglected to repair a dip in the road near the accident scene, which he says is a Category 1 defect.
Transport Scotland have now agreed to review the four mile section of road to see where problems may affect drivers.
MSP Dave Thomson said 'Transport Scotland had agreed to a review of all problem corners on the four-mile section of the A830 and they will also look at whether safety can be enhanced by the addition of a new high-friction road surface at the worst bends.'
A Transport Scotland spokesman said 'We welcome the constructive meeting we had with all of the interested parties and look forward to progressing the study and associated works as soon as possible.'
MARINE HARVEST SCOTLAND FIRST OFF THE BLOCK
Shoppers in China are now able to buy Scottish farmed salmon for the first time - and every fish has come through Mallaig!.
Marine Harvest Scotland has been examining the potential of the Chinese market for some time and, in close co-operation with the Marine Harvest China office, ensured that they were in a position to supply from January 2011.
As Madeleine Easson, Account Manager of Marine Harvest Scotland, explained: 'This is a historic moment for Scottish farmed salmon. We're delighted to be selling Scottish farmed salmon in China and it's likely to prove popular in a country where fish is seen as a greater delicacy than meat and poultry. We know the Chinese eat a large proportion of fish in their diet and Scottish farmed salmon is renowned for its taste and quality. 'We believe that the sales made this month are the first of many shipments to China and the start of a long term trading opportunity.'
The size of the Chinese market for fresh Atlantic salmon is estimated at over 10,000t and has seen considerable growth year on year through the last decade.
Scottish farmed salmon is a major success story for Scotland, injecting more than £500 million into the Scottish economy in 2008. Scotland is the second largest salmon producing country in the world and its exports have increased by 500% in the last 20 years. Salmon accounts for forty per cent of Scottish food exports.
Marine Harvest Scotland is currently identifying appropriate sites to develop open sea fish farming in order to increase capacity and meet growing demand for its product.
January always feels like such a short month. After the festivities have died down there doesn't seem to be much time left to do anything. Or maybe that's just me, certainly others seem to find time. For instance the Robinsons have been to London and skiing, Jim and Kristy are presently away to Kendal, Aaran is learning French for the school and Calum found the time to return from Chile/Jamaica for the Burns Supper. Iain's peeling of the tatties in the pub was not helped by the unannounced appearance of his son. Pleasantly surprised is a bit of an understatement. The Supper itself, as usual, passed off well with Iain's own poem to young Oran and Mel's Toast to the Lassies being the highlights for me. The music was from locals and we partied well into the night.
The next big party, after the Valentine's Disco and the Easter Ceilidh, will of course be the 2nd Knoydart Festival on the weekend of the Royal wedding. Tickets are selling fast now with all the bands garnering rave reviews at Celtic Connections. The band list is still growing with Hidden Orchestra and Washington Irving soon to be confirmed. The food for the festival will be locally sourced and supplied apart from Spinks Smokies from Arbroath) and there will be much more activities including Archery and a full programme of films - classics, features and shorts. Hope you can all make it.
Before then there is the small matter of the new sewage scheme at the Long Beach end of the village. The existing system here has been hanging by a thread for some time now and has had to be replaced. The tender submission date for a major part of the works was the end of January and we are hoping that contractors can start as soon as possible. This is a major financial and organisational commitment on the part of the Foundation, supported by a wide ranging funding package, but should settle many problems.
The end of January has mostly been marked by the movings: Sam and Cath moving to Foreman's, Mark moving to Grieve's Bothy and Angie and Anna moving rubbish out of the old Piggery to give some space for a prospective pony trekking venture. Bernie too has got in on the act with the shop moving in a full range of refrigeration appliances in readiness for the new season. The new houses will be occupied upon completion, with Tommy making up the occupants' list round at Airor. And not to forget that Davy MacDonnell arrived to take up his new post with the Forest Trust, who have ongoing new native woodland projects at Sandaig, Inverguiserein and Gleann Meadall.
ISLE OF MUCK
February is upon us and the pace is increasing on our three projects. KDL have agreed all the details and if the Loch Nevis had called they would have been here with the first of their equipment. Like most modern builders much of the work on Muck will be done by sub contractors who come as required. They do however have their own joiners. And their staff are paid to feed themselves rather than be catered for by islanders like all their predecessors. This new arrangement should be fine on the mainland where there is usually a cafe or takeaway just down the road but on Muck the Craft Shop does not open till the end of April!
Not only KDL but Scottish Hydro Contracting have been out. They are designing and pricing our new power scheme. This is the third of the Small Isles where Hydro have been involved. On Eigg they were the main contractor and now they are updating the Rum hydro plant. The shooting season is over and the remaining pheasants and partridges (which seem to be quite numerous) are left in peace until next October though they still have to be fed.
Shooting has been a big success on Muck bringing visitors outwith the main visitor season, And judging by the number of repeat bookings Mary and Toby are doing a great job in what is a very competitive business. And Arisaig Marine as well. 26 charters without a cancellation due to the weather. This is an incredible record by Ronnie and Angus! Finally the Small Isles' Sports will be on Saturday 6th August. And part of the music at the ceilidh after will be the Small Halls' Band who come from Kelso and were such a hit last year.
ISLE OF RUM
Our regular correspondent who appears to be suffering from an identity crisis is taking a break and a well earned holiday back to New Zealand where she will, no doubt, refresh her accent and bring back a whole new collection of vowel sounds for us to tackle. Have fun Georgie.
Meanwhile it's all action stations here. Latest news is the brief reopening of the climate challenge fund, so while the folk on Eigg yawn and continue to bathe in hot water warmed by the sun, reflecting on the green paradise on which they live (and all the hard work it took to achieve it), we will attempt to the work out a plan to offset the carbon footprint of Kinloch Castle, I say 'footprint', but think trampled underfoot by herd of elephants kind of footprint. Seriously though, this month we will all be busy putting together a bid for a number of projects to reduce our community carbon output, something which affects everyone and should generate full participation, we have some great ideas and are hoping for a successful outcome.
Contractors are afoot carrying out repairs on the village roads which have developed some major holes over the winter, they are also maintaining the track to Harris and hopefully upgrading the bit between the crossroads and the deergate. Following that, work will begin on the north side trail which has badly degenerated over the last few years - the upgrade will make it passable by mother and pushchair, I'm told; will let you know when it's done. Lastly, the Harris bridge is being replaced (the one crossing the Harris river at the end of the raised beach if you were going up to Loch Fiachnis, if you didn't know where I meant !)
The SNH reserve office is still camping out in temporary accommodation in the billiards room at the castle, the renovation of the Whitehouse is on schedule and should be finished in March, enough time for staff to decamp and move back before the castle reopens the doors to the public. All being well, a modern spacious office awaits with proper fast (yes, proper and fast) broadband.
The community trust will find out in the next month or so whether or not the proposed development in the byre buildings will get the initial go ahead. Following a visit from some Swiss architecture and engineering students, some interesting and innovative drawings were forthcoming that could turn the existing farm buildings into a vibrant community space with shop, café, holiday accommodation, office space and even a new surgery for the Doctor's visits.
We are having another community action day this month to clear up the campsite, make more space and prepare it for this year's season; the last action day, to start off Mike's community garden by the village hall, was a great success and uncovered a riverside path which has been hidden beneath undergrowth for years.
The community trust received several proposals this months for new businesses (eco- bunkhouse, workshop, B&B) involving renovating old properties and also renting patches of land for gardening. It's great to see that community ownership is having the desired effect of encouraging local people in starting small businesses to help boost our island economy. We can let you know more details as they progress. And finally, after a brief interlude of community management following Norman's retirement, the Rum shop is now being run by Jinty Crocket. We all wish Jinty every success in her new venture. More next month.
ISLE OF CANNA
As the frost of December melted away with the Hogmanay hangovers, most of January seems to have been mild and dry. By the second week, the Snowdrops of Canna House garden were in full flower, with the first Daffodil shoots showing that spring shouldn't be far away. Early March will see the opening of part of Canna House for the first time. On Wednesdays and Saturdays visitors will be able to see some ground floor rooms and feel the ambience of what it was to live in this remarkable house. Those that can not wait till then to experience what the island has to offer can visit the NTS visitor centre at Glencoe. An exhibition of island photographs is on display there. The exhibition was originally on show a couple of years ago at NTS HQ and contains a mixture of photographs from the Canna House archive and more contemporary pictures of island life. Throughout the summer the exhibition will move to other locations around Lochaber - we will keep you posted of when and where.
Those on the island for Burns Night enjoyed an evening of traditional entertainment and food at the Gille Brighde. Some more unusual instruments made an appearance, notably a Ukulele played by peripatetic dyker Dougie in harmony (!) with Amanda. I'm told a recording was made of the performance - which is best You Tube or Facebook? Money could change hands!
Canna has borrowed Dougie from Muck for a time. The ladies of the isle, both young and old, seem to have fallen for the roving Casanova and when Canna releases him from its grasp many a heart will feel the loss greatly. The men folk on the other hand may breathe a sigh of relief. Joaquin was so worried about Magda that he whisked her off to Lanzarote for a fortnight of seafood and romance.
The new holiday season is galloping up fast. Following publicity in the papers for Geoff's tent business, bookings are pouring in, so too for the holiday cottages on the island. Looks like a busy season coming up. By then we should have made a decision on the new tenants for the restored cottage of MacIsacs. Business plans for applicants are due in by the 4th of Feb, so we are all looking forward to reading what's on offer. All the potential new tenants have been so good it is going to be an extremely difficult decision. It is a shame they can't all succeed. Guma math a theid leotha uile!
ISLE OF EIGG
Possibly the calmest January that I can remember for a long time, this month has been a good one to start on New Year's resolutions: dig the garden and get it ready early, get healthy and walk more etc… But then the winter gales have been upon us again and we can go back to being winter couch potatoes, some of us doing superfast surfing, thanks to the alternative system currently being installed by Simon and which is connecting us to mainland broadband: still in its trial stage it's been working very well until the last gale did something to the antenna below the Sgurr.
Social apathy has set in after all the New Year celebrations and this year will not see Robbie Burns celebrated communally on Eigg, possibly because of the success of the well attended Glenuig Reggae night and the surfeit of Aquarian birthdays which provided other social occasions such as mine, the theme of which was chocolate and cinema, (Alice in Wonderland in HD on the giant screen at Tigh an-t-Sithean, courtesy of Mick and Jacky Brett who are promising regular film night) and a very nice and laid back evening that was for the Eigg girls. Then there was the spy masters party for Struan in the hall which went down a treat, thanks to the help of Fanny, the French WWOOFER, and for the very much younger ones, Clyde's birthday too!
However this is not to say that nothing is happening on the island, as work has started on Tigh Sandaveg, Hilda's future home near the church of Scotland, work at St Donnan's has now reached the tape and filling stage. Jamie and Eilidh are busy doing up Angus's house to get it ready for the summer. Mick and Jacky are working on their "pod" village and Liz has started with her Sunday afternoon pony-trekking training to get her assorted collection of ponies used to a bit more exercise to the delight of young Catriona, Hanna and Megan. Funding for Croft 6 has been obtained from the Pilgrim Trust to remedy the dampness problems whilst the new crofting trail is progressing nicely, and the Green team has resumed its monthly meetings to look into setting up a comprehensive volunteer programme for Eigg amongst other projects.
On a sadder note, our sympathies are with the Boden family for the loss of Alec senior, a great character who was somewhat of a hero in his time, having had played for Celtic in his young days, before his long association with Eigg, started with family holidays at Forester's cottage before coming back to visit his son and daughter on Eigg in latter years… There was a minute silence at Hamden, a tribute that was touching for all who knew him.
With so many things coming up in the Hall, perhaps I'm forgiven this month for writing about nothing else. I won't say too much as it's all advertised elsewhere.
As well as weekly yoga, we can now add Zumba to our keep fit aspirations. Pamela Burns, who is already conducting very successful dancercise classes in Mallaig and is wowing the Primary School children - is bringing us this latest enthusiasm to sweep the country.
Jane of the West Highland College in Mallaig is keen to bring classes out to the village and we're hosting a three week Bee Keeping Course (Saturdays 5th - 19th March) and a Cheese making demonstration on 4th March.
Another new venture is the teaming of visits by Waterstones Book Fair with opportunities for voluntary groups locally to provide soup and sandwiches at the same time for their own fundraising. Waterstones will be coming on Saturdays throughout the year; the first one is on April 9th.
Such is the popularity of the fundraising soup & sandwiches by the various groups at the various Fairs, they are all booked already, apart from one Waterstones' date in July. That's all the Produce Fairs, the Craft Fair and the Waterstones' Book Fairs taken (12 in all), except for Friday July 29th. This last one comes during our busiest time so the fact that the Produce Fair is on Thursday 21st and the Craft Fair is on Tuesday 26th should work well with all the visitors about. See next month for all the dates of the Produce Fairs, tables can be booked for £5 and preference will be given to foodstuffs.
News in Brief
- Passengers on the West Highland Line have been complaining about freezing conditions in the carriages which, along with long delays at stations, are making journeys intolerable. Antiquated signalling equipment has caused the long delays at stations and internal doors have been removed because ScotRail say they posed a potential risk after a train landed on its side when it hit a landslide near Oban last summer. Regular passengers are demanding the trains are replaced.
- Council set to spend £2 million on road repairs in Highland The Highland Council is set to invest heavily on improving the regional road network which has been damaged by snow and ice over the past two winters. The Council is to receive £1.645 million as its share of the £15 million allocated to Scottish councils for road repairs by the Scottish Government and the Council's Administration is recommending a further £355,00 be allocated to road repairs in 2011/12 to take the total to £2 million. In addition, the TECS Committee agreed last week to bring forward £500,000 of capital funding for structural road maintenance to the current financial year to help with repairs to the local road network.
- Highland householders are being advised by The Highland Council of new and extended ways of paying their Council Tax, rent and other Council bills. The new payment system takes effect from 1st April - the start of the new financial year. From then, the public will be able to pay by cash or cheque at any Post Office and more than 300 PayPoints and Payzones throughout the Highlands. From 1st April, the public will not be able to pay by cash or cheque at a Council Service Point, although they will continue to be able to pay by debit or credit card.
- Highland Council has proposed eradicating the classroom assistant post in all of its primary schools in an effort to make savings. The move would see the removal of 156 full-time equivalent jobs, which are filled by 342 people. In their place, 60 full-time equivalent jobs as learning support auxiliaries would be created and filled by 150 people on a part-time basis. While classroom assistants are allocated to schools, the new auxiliaries would be assigned to children with additional support needs. Highland schools also face the loss of up to a quarter of their computers, following the signing of a £70 million information technology contract between the council and contractor Fujitsu. You can sign a petition asking your Councillors to vote against this proposal here: www.gopetition.com/petition/42573.html
MALLAIG BOATYARD REVIVED
As we were going to press, news of the re-opening of the Mallaig Boatyard began to filter through and, although there has been no official communication or announcement regarding it, it appears that local engineer Mr Donald Sharman (Diesel Services) has agreed to lease the main slipway and the engineering workshop etc. from the current Boatyard owners, Crannog Concept Ltd., Fort William.
A COMMUNITY TRUST FOR MALLAIG - OPEN DAY - SATURDAY 5TH FEBRUARY
Unfortunately, due to the bad weather on Friday 4th, which meant that the ferry didn't sail, Henry Mains was unable to come over from Sleat to give a talk about the potential for a community Trust. However, we did set up a stall within the exhibition of old photographs (Thanks to Judy and Bridget for allowing us to do this). We had information from Comrie Development Trust, and handouts showing what Sleat have achieved in their eight years of existence, and what other community Trusts have been able to achieve. We also asked people to leave their contact details if they were interested in being kept informed, and there were post-its for people to suggest what they would like to see a Community Trust achieve. A good selection of proposals were put forward, ranging from community allotments and 'joining-up' local paths, to re-opening an aquarium for the area.
We hope to re-schedule Henry's visit sometime in the near future. In the meantime, if anyone would like to add their contact details to the list to be kept informed, or has any ideas that they would like a community Trust to consider, please speak to one of the steering group; Richard Begg, Gavin Davies, Charlie King, Johnny MacMillan, Sandra MacLean, or Jacqueline McDonell.
NEWS FROM THE HARBOUR
- It's taken some time but the Authority is happy to officially thank and honour Inverie Sculptor Mr Mark Rogers for the imposing and thought provoking sculpture of a man and child which is located at the roundhead on the Steamer Pier. At a small ceremony Mark was thanked for his creative skills and generosity in gifting the statue to the Community of Mallaig and I, as Port Manager of the Authority along with Pimmy McLean, Harbour Master, was pleased to accept it on the community's behalf. I presented Mark with a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water - a small token of our appreciation.
Left to right: Robert MacMillan, James (Pimmy) McLean, Mark Rogers
and his faithful companion in front of the statue on the Steamer Pier.
- A Planning Application has been submitted to the Highland Council for the construction of a storage building. The location of this 900 sq m building will be behind the Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd Ticket Office and it will be used primarily for the storage of fish farm feed although other materials/goods will also be stored there.
- Harbour Master James (Pimmy) McLean has been busy overseeing the removal of the small boats that have been parked up there for some considerable time and slowly but surely the area is being cleared. Small fishing boats, workboats and yachts parked-up or "wintering" on harbour land is nothing new but more and more seem to be taking up this option. This means that with the Storage Building due to be in situ come May this year the formulation of a more controlled wintering area will need to be effected for the 2011/2012 winter period.
- The successful contractors for a) The pontoon and moorings portion of the Yachting Development; and b) The shoreworks element, will be announced early this month and the aim of the Authority is to have the Yachting Facility in place by the middle of May 2011.
Robert MacMillan, Port Manager/Secretary
EARTHQUAKE CENTRED ON GLENUIG
Locals were woken at about 6am on Sunday 23rd January by a 'roaring noise', vibrations and ornaments rattling. The earthquake was centred on Glenuig and measured 3.5 on the Richter Scale. It occurred 16km deep, and was felt from Skye to Oban and even further afield. Thank you to Ranald and Hilary for interesting links: http://www.earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/recent_events/recent_events.html
This was the largest earthquake detected in the area since one of the same size on 10th January 2008 near Glenfinnan. Historically the largest earthquakes to have occurred nearby were the magnitude 3.6 event in Moidart on 14th October 1902 and the one of 3.2 in Moidart on 1st February 1809.
Earthquakes are not uncommon and may be experienced all over the country and there is usually a 3.5 somewhere in the UK every 12 - 18 months. A magnitude 5 occurs once in twenty years.
TRIPPING THE NIGHT FANTASTIC
Over the last few months, we've been treated to a lot of sights; monthly meteor showers, a comet, a lunar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse and regular appearances from most of the near-by planets. However, despite the Universe being full of speeding objects, stellar explosions and massive waltzing bodies, we appear to be in the wrong place of the solar system to see any of it this month. So this month I am going to describe a few of the consistent wonders, and how to find them.
The Pleiades - High in the southern sky at 8pm and drifting westwards, the Seven Sisters can be seen with the naked eye as a tight group of around five stars, but binoculars reveal a much more stunning site. Our closest cluster is made up of hundreds of stars all born from the same dust cloud, and even though they appear close together from our viewpoint are actually themselves millions of miles apart.
Orion Nebula - Orion will be low in the southern sky at around 9pm, heading west. The three stars that form his belt are the easiest part to find, and when you do look for a smudge just below them. In that smudge stars are being born, and radiation from them is causing the gas cloud to glow - best viewed through binoculars or a telescope.
International Space Station - With an average height of 230 miles, a speed of 17,000 mph and around 1.7 billion miles on the clock, the ISS can easily be seen on many a night as a brilliant point of light travelling across the sky. The best place to find out where it will be, and when, is on heavens-above.com. The ISS is best searched for with the naked eye. The Moon - Obvious one really, as it makes an appearance on most nights of the month. But viewed at the right time through binoculars, the Moon is an amazing site. While it is waxing (or waning), the shadow of the Earth that cuts across the face of the Moon reveals craters, mountains and lunar seas. Well worth a look.
As always, happy viewing!
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
Only one photo this month! We suppose that January isn't a very popular month for holidays -
but come on you subscribers, send us a photo of where you live!
This month's picture is of Arisaig's Margaret Harrison,
who took her copy all the way to London, Ontario.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald - January report
The month started fairly cold but by the second week the weather became more changeable and milder, wetter conditions were interspersed with two to three day periods of calmer weather with night frosts.
The number of Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala varied from nil to at least a dozen, depending on ice cover. There were five present on the 27th.
Shelduck numbers increased as the month progressed, with sightings at Traigh, Silver Sands, and Loch nan Ceall, with eight seen fishing at Camus an t'Allen on the 21st. Wigeons were reported from the Morar Estuary, Traigh, Caimbe Bridge and Morroch. There were good numbers of Red-Breasted Mergansers on Loch nan Ceall, at Traigh and on the Morar Estuary. The local Greylag Geese were seen in various locations, with flocks seen at Cross Farm, Traigh, Back of Keppoch and at Borrodale, where there 25 feeding on the 29th.
Still at least three Greenshank wintering on the Morar Estuary, and regular reports of Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones at West Bay, Mallaig.
The first white-winged Gull report of the winter was an Immature Glaucous Gull seen in Mallaig on the 30th and 31st.
Numerous reports of Siskins coming to garden feeders throughout the area, with up to 13 visiting a garden in Morar on the 28th along with at least 22 Goldfinches. Some Arisaig gardens reported Yellowhammers at feeders, and up to three Brambling were regular visitors to a Mallaig garden until the 3rd week of the month. The same garden also had a Lesser Redpoll coming to feeders for a few days up until the month end.
The Nuthatch in Arisaig was still visiting gardens throughout the month.
A Greater spotted Woodpecker was seen on a birdfeeder in a garden at Camusdarach on 4th January.
Hen Harriers were again seen regularly at Back of Keppoch. Kestrels were seen at Morar and Traigh, and Sea Eagles were reported from various sites throughout the area.
The regular Barn Owls were seen in Mallaig, and there were other sightings from Arisaig, Back of Keppoch and Beoraid, Morar.
MARINE HARVEST'S PLANS FOR LOCHAILORT BASE
Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd (MHS) recently announced plans to expand operations on the west coast of Scotland as part of a £40m investment to grow the fish farming business.
As part of this growth plan, it is necessary to increase the capacity of freshwater operations which supply stock to the seawater sites. At MHS's land based freshwater facilities, fish are reared in tanks until they are at the correct life cycle-stage for transfer to freshwater or seawater loch sites. Eventually the fish are grown in their seawater sites until they are of suitable size for harvesting.
MHS has strategically considered site options for the installation of a state of the art freshwater recirculation facility which could produce the number fish which are required. Lochailort, the site of an MHS existing operation, has proven to be by far the best option for this proposal.
Recirculation operations abstract a small volume of water from a river or ground source which is then re-cycled within a land based fish farm facility containing fish tanks. These operations work by cleaning the effluent water from the fish tanks through various filtration processes to achieve a high enough quality to allow the water to be pumped back to the tanks. The re-circulating water is supplemented by a small additional abstraction, which in the case of Lochailort, will come from the River Ailort. As most of the water is recycled within the farm, it is possible to exert a high level of control over various aspects of water quality and maintain optimum conditions for fish rearing.
The multiple benefits of a facility of this nature require some key features to allow development to proceed:
- Land availability
- Secure water supply
- Sufficient electrical supply
- Suitable transport links
As well as meeting all of the above requirements, the site at Lochailort is also located conveniently close to the company's Fort William base. The existing site has been in operation since 1994 and is capable of producing up to 4 million fry and 250 thousand smolts per year. Prior to 1994, the site has been home to fish farming operations since the 1960s. It was the site of the first commercial salmon farming harvest in Scotland and also the birthplace of Marine Harvest.
The new site will be capable of producing 6 million smolts and 6 million parr/fry (juvenile Atlantic Salmon) a year. To achieve this goal, an appropriately sized building will need to be built on the grounds of the existing site and some currently unused land.
The existing facility holds a CAR (SEPA) abstraction licence for 35 litres per second from the River Ailort; this allows for adequate water supply to be directed into the existing fish farm. The new facility will operate within this existing limit and MHS proposes to bring an existing weir structure at the mouth of Loch Eilt into improved management. This will help to ensure the stability of the flow and thus provide more secure supply of water, potentially benefiting river ecology and also ensuring supply for operations.
As part of the internal planning process, MHS commissioned a hydrological study which details the flow patterns of the River Ailort. This study confirmed that the Q95 flow (that which is exceeded 95% of the time) at the fish farm's abstraction point is around 400 litres per second. As the fish farm will abstract under 10% of the Q95 river flow, the impact on river ecological status, as compared to SEPA guidance, will not be significant. An expert review of the potential impact on ecology (including wild fish) relating to MHS's project has determined that affects of the proposal are unlikely to be detrimental to the river.
As per SNH recommendations, an Otter survey has been performed at the site which shows that the animals are not going to be affected by this proposal. There were no sightings of Otter on the ground to be used for construction and the effects of the project on the river will not significantly affect Otter habitat or food supply.
Following detailed pre-application consultation, MHS commissioned a local historian to create a photographic record of the commando training camp buildings remaining at the site. The chicken shed/old drying room building which was to be demolished as part of the application has been preserved following alterations to the originally proposed site access. The only remaining buildings to be affected by the project are those which have already been appropriated and significantly altered by the existing MHS site operations. These buildings will be removed as part of this process as will the unused equipment which is currently being stored at the site.
MHS has given careful consideration to the colour scheme for the building to make it blend with the surrounding landscape as well as possible. The site of development is not clearly viewable from many locations and the project will result in a tidy of the existing site. As the new facility has been designed to be as visually amenable as possible, and will not be clearly viewable from most commonly visited points, the visual impact of the proposal is predicted to be minimal.
To meet the needs of the expanding seawater operations, MHS intends to stock the site in 2012, and it is anticipated that construction of the Lochailort facility will begin as soon as planning permission is received.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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