Strong opposition has been lodged to a proposed fish farm in a fragile eco-system on Scotland’s north-west coast.
Mooted for a site off Horse Island in the Summer Isles, near Ullapool – within a Scottish Government marine protected area – the applicant Scottish Sea Farms argues that it would create jobs and fund new homes.
The Scottish Protection Environment Agency is currently considering a licence application. If approved, Highland councillors would then deliberate.
But objectors claim the industry is filthy and damaging to the environment.
Poppy Lewis-Ings, of the Ullapool Sea Savers campaign group, said: “People need to realise that the sea is such a beautiful place and I think if they know what damage it can cause and what life can be threatened in it they might take a second guess to maybe changing what they’re going to do.”
Fellow campaigner Megan Loftus said: “We’ve got to stop it right now so that the MPAs can actually be a marine protected area rather than just a circle on a map.”
Noel Hawkins of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said the introduction of a protected area status had cost livelihoods.
He said: “Trawling was restricted in some of the areas and some of the boats that did concede ground were local boats that worked that ground.
“And it seems a bit of a betrayal to them – and to those of us who fought for this marine protected area – that those guys have conceded ground which is now potentially going to be handed over to multinationals.”
Scottish Sea Farms said it planned to create six jobs and promised that a new fish farm would boost the local economy and contribute towards the cost of providing much-needed new homes.
Spokeswoman Sarah Last said: “Every farming has some kind of an impact and it’s important to keep that impact as minimal as possible and to do it sustainably.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to feed a planet and we have to find a way to do that sustainably.
“The really good thing about fish farming is that it has such a low-carbon footprint, I think the lowest of all the farming industries.”