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January 3, 2012

Online news is reporting that 12 salmon cages have broken loose

Check out this article from Forargyll
PS. don't forget to read the updates via this link

Online news is reporting that 12 salmon 
cages have broken loose.

BBC Orkney and Shetland online news is reporting that 12 salmon cages have broken loose from a fish farm and are adrift off Unst. Each is nearly 100 ft in diameter and full of mature fish. They were originally attached to each other, forming a linked circle but the connections have progressively been breaking up.
The report does not give the number of fish but Ewan Kennedy of the saveseilsound campaign says the maximum permitted by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is  2,500 tonnes which, at 4kg per fish would mean 600,000 salmon.
As well as the danger to shipping of 12 of these drifting cages – and the wind direction today will take them towards Norway, this is also an environmental hazard. This scale of break out carries immense risks for wild salmon stocks in their mating with farmed fish.
The BBC report indicates that local thinking is that the cages went adrift on Christmas Eve – they are off the south coast of Unst. It is thought unlikely that the salmon will still be in the cages – an expensive festive lapse of concentration.
According to the report, the owners of the farm, Lakeland Unst Ltd,  have been ‘urged to tow them to shore’ – a curios expression that suggests inaction to date on the part of the fish farm management. Local boats and boats in the area have been asked to help.
As yet, the local BBC report on this for Orkney and Shetland has not been noted in the main BBC Scotland webpage notr as far as we aware, has it been mentioned on BBC Scotland. (Update 11.50 2nd January, this item has still not been carried on the BBC’s online Scotland main page – very poor news judgement allied to holiday eyes-off-the-ball.)
We reported the incident to SEPA, who did not know of it and they are keeping us in touch on the issue, particularly in response to questions we have put to them.
The matter also relates to the decision to hand over responsibility for emergency towing from the Coastguard to the oil and gas industry in the spring of this year, removing altogether the two large ETVs which were temporarily reprieved by robust campaigning, following the decision to axe them as a contribution to spending cuts.
As has been noted in Arran’s COAST, had an incident like this happened in The Minch the consequences would have been catastrophic. The nature of hazard these cages present to shipping is such that they would not normally cause a sinking but they could stop a ship. Without emergency towing capacity, the consequences of such a disablement would depend on what the affected ship was carrying and at what strength and in which direction the wind was blowing.
Shipping and the local marine environment in The Minch would be helplessly prey to chance in such a scenario. 

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