CAMPAIGNERS in a small Highland community have celebrated their victory over a multi-billion pound salmon giant’s attempt to increase industrial farming in, saying that their success should act as a rallying call to other coastal communities.

The £2.28 billion-a-year Norwegian seafood company Mowi, which farms 2500 tonnes of salmon in open cages at the Creag an T’Sagairt salmon farm, had applied to Highland Council for permission to increase production by 25% to 3100 tonnes.

READ MORE: Marine Scotland accused of destroying thousands of Scottish fishing jobs

However, scientific modelling commissioned by the Friends of Loch Hourn (FoLH) campaign group found that the increased numbers of sea lice emerging from the farm would endanger wild fish populations in Loch Hourn, which sits between the Glenelg peninsula to the north and the Knoydart peninsula to the south.

Additionally, the chemicals used by the farm to kill the lice are toxic to other crustaceans, and are not easily dispersed from the slow flushing loch.

The National:

Following submissions from FoLH, the Loch Hourn community and the Skye & Lochalsh Rivers Trust, Dingwall’s Northern Planning committee voted 7-6 to reject Mowi’s application, which by then had been reduced to 2750 tonnes.

The group believes its knife-edge victory marks the first time in Scotland that such a project has been quashed because of the threat to wild salmon and sea trout.

Arnisdale resident Peter Fletcher said: “While this decision is just vindication of the incredible efforts of our tiny, rural community against the might of a huge corporation, the fight to restore the loch’s habitats and species is only just beginning.”

The National:

Arnisdale fisherman Mick Simpson (above, right) added: “Throughout this process we have doggedly stuck up for the truth by research and by documenting everything we could to show why this expansion would be a disaster for the area. We hope Mowi will now respect the planning decision and the feelings of the local community.

“Our hope now is that we can inspire people that this can be done, even for super-remote communities like ours. As members of the Coastal Community Network, we know many similar groups will be looking at this decision very closely.”

The campaign group says it will now survey the loch to assess the viability of restoring native oyster and sea grass beds, and also support ongoing research into the cause of a decline of blue mussel populations.

Stephen MacIntyre, the head of environment at Mowi Scotland, said: “We were disappointed with the decision of the committee given the application received no objections from all statutory science bodies and that the planning officials had recommended the application for approval.

"We are now reviewing the process that led to this decision and considering our options.”