Scottish Sea Farms says it has had a record number of visitors to its sites this year.
Between January and September, the company welcomed 270 visitors to its fish farm, including its freshwater hatchery at Barcaldine, near Oban, marine farms and processing facilities.
In many cases, individuals and organizations have approached Scottish Sea Farms directly, while others have been introduced to the business by industry organization Salmon Scotland.
The move to improve understanding of the sector comes amid continued pressure from anti-salmon farming lobby groups.
Organizations such as Inside Scottish Salmon Feedlots (ISSF) are lobbying for sea lice, fish welfare, mortality and sewage issues to be addressed.
The ISSF says the amount of sea lice in the water has increased “significantly” and is calling for change.
Salmon Scotland insists the number of sea lice in fish farms is among its lowest levels since records began.
All departments involved in visitor drive
Scottish Sea Farms said its education campaign resulted in 33 scheduled visits from customers, regulators, politicians, environmental groups, students, suppliers, media and members of the public.
Every department has been involved in the cross-company effort which, despite the time required, is expected to reap rewards, as visitors get first-hand experience of a salmon farm.
Scottish Sea Farms Scallastle farm manager Michael Keenan said: “The beauty of people coming to the farm is that they can see what we are doing and talk to the team in person.
“No question is off limits. In fact, we encourage open, honest and constructive discussions.
“With most of the team living locally, it’s also an opportunity to impress visitors from more central areas just how important salmon farming is to remote communities in Scotland.”
The company organized tours for many years before the pandemic, but more recently it was deliberately decided to invite as many interested parties as possible to show first-hand how what is a relatively young agricultural sector works.
Andrea McColl, Senior Life Sciences Development Manager at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, led a group of overseas visitors in April as part of the A3 Scotland conference.
Ms McColl said: “Seeing in real life what an aquaculture facility looks like, and the scale and complexity of the operation, gave the group great insight into the sector.
We don’t do anything different on the day of a visit.
Donald Buchanan, Processing Manager, Scottish Sea Farms.
“Our hosts were happy to answer our many questions, covering science, technology and operations, and the group came away much more informed.”
Scottish Sea Farms processing manager Donald Buchanan said it was crucial to give visitors an authentic experience, adding: ‘We don’t do anything different on the day of a visit other than taking time out on our normal day to show guests around.
“When your facilities and farms are running the way they should every day, there’s no need. It is the affirmation that we are doing the right thing as a company.
Scottish Sea Farms expects visitor numbers to increase further next year, with tours extended further to include more farms in the Northern Isles.
Scottish Sea Farms visitors by region:
- Argyll and Bute – 265 out of 31 visits, including 208 (out of 25 visits) to Barcaldine Freshwater Hatchery, 180 (out of 25 visits) to various marine farms and 132 (out of 17 visits) to processing and South Shian facility.
- Orkney – two in one visit (Shapinsay & Wyre).
- Shetland – three in one visit (Holms Geo).
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[Scottish Sea Farms throws open doors to counter critics]