Recovery operation under way after boat sinks and spills fuel at salmon farm

Green industrialists raise concerns over environmental impact and food safety following the sinking of a fish farm landing craft in the Sound of Mull

A recovery operation is under way after a fish farm landing craft sunk and leaked fuel into the Sound of Mull.

The vessel, named the Julie Anne and contracted by Scottish Sea Farms, sank on Thursday July 4 at the firm’s salmon farm near Fiunary. 

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has been informed and oil booms have been deployed around the incident area.

Scottish Sea Farms say they are working “on removing the fuel and re-floating the vessel”.

Gerry McCormick, the company’s head of health and safety, said: “Our immediate priority, with the assistance of specialist divers and environmental services, has been to check for any potential fuel leaks, seal any areas found to be releasing small quantities of fuel, and re-check these multiple times daily. As an added precaution, we have also deployed oil booms around the incident area.  

“Our collective focus now is on removing the fuel and re-floating the vessel – a first for Scottish Sea Farms in close to 25 years of farming – which we hope to have done within the week, after which we will carry out a full and thorough inspection.”

Video footage filmed by eyewitnesses in the area shows fuel leaking from the boom and washing up along the shore.

Scottish Sea Farms was first alerted to the incident at just before 8am last Thursday. Upon arriving at the site, a farm team found the vessel was fully submerged some 20.4m underwater.

Plans are now being put in place for the removal of the remaining oil and recovery of the 15m (49ft) vessel, off the Ardnamurchan coast.

But Green industrialists are calling for an urgent review of industrial salmon farming following the incident, saying it raises concerns over environmental impact and food safety.

“The fuel spill in a Marine Protected Area near Fiunary isn’t just an isolated incident – it’s a glaring symptom of the fundamental flaws in open-net salmon farming,” said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity and leader of the Green Britain Group.

“This industry is wreaking havoc on precious marine habitats, and it’s high time we face this head-on. The current practices are simply unsustainable and unacceptable. What’s more, the fact that polluted fish may end up on consumers’ plates is deeply troubling.

“We’re at a crossroads – we can either continue to degrade our coastal waters and compromise food safety or take bold action to revolutionise our approach to salmon farming and marine stewardship.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) says it has made three surveillance flights of the site and continues to monitor the area.

A recovery plan would see the remaining fuel extracted from the vessel, which was brought into service in 2015, if approved by the MCA.

It will then be raised and a full inspection carried out to establish the cause of the sinking.

A spokesperson for the MCA said: “Following the sinking of a fish farm support vessel on Thursday, July 4, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency along with Environmental stakeholders have been monitoring the salvage and recovery operation that is currently underway just northwest of Fiunary in the Sound of Mull.

“The MCA has conducted three surveillance flights of the site since Friday and continues to monitor the situation, working with the fish farm operators.

“A plan has been formed by the salvors and this is currently being reviewed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Secretary of State’s Representative is involved and is monitoring the recovery actions.”

SEPA said it received reports of a sunken vessel at the Scottish Sea Farms site near Fiunary on Thursday.

A spokesperson said: “The operator placed booms in the water to contain any potential pollution and prevent dispersal, and divers have been monitoring the vessel to check for and plug leaks.

“While a small fuel leakage was initially observed, this has been contained and no further pollution has been recorded. The operator will continue to apply mitigation measures before the vessel is recovered.

“We continue to liaise with the operator and Marine Directorate as we monitor the situation closely to ensure any potential environmental impacts are limited.”

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