A NEW ‘world class’ smolt hatchery being built at Lochailort is expected to be finished next year.
And Marine Harvest’s state-of-the art facility - one of the biggest of its kind on the planet when completed - got the seal of approval from Scottish environment minister Paul Wheelhouse at a site visit last Wednesday.
Mr Wheelhouse also met representatives from the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation - one of China’s biggest food manufacturers, processors and trading companies - who were visiting Marine Harvest.
Mr Wheelhouse said: ‘Marine Harvest operate to high environmental standards and is committed to growing sustainably in Scotland, therefore I’m pleased they are demonstrating this commitment through plans for a world class facility in Lochailort.
‘The aquaculture industry makes an important economic contribution, particularly in remote communities such as the Fort William area, bringing investment and jobs to rural Scotland. Indeed, Marine Harvest employed 367 people in Scotland last year.
‘Businesses like Marine Harvest deliver high quality seafood products that are highly sought after around the world. New markets are opening up, particularly in the Far East, as demonstrated by this visit from a Chinese delegation.’
The Oban Times was given an exclusive first look at the facility in a guided tour with site manager Steve McCaig and hatchery technician Paul Fletcher in April.
Since then, the 150,000 square foot building where around 13 million Atlantic salmon smolts will been housed has been taking shape.
When it is finished the facility will house 12 staff – six of them in the hatchery.
Around 110 people have been working on the site as contractors Robertson aim for a completion date of early 2013.
Seven miles of pipe have been laid and the 11 metre-tall building will be screened by a protective green to lessen visual impact on the local landscape.
During site preparation works, all excavated material was reclaimed and crushed on site for use in building works.
Mr Wheelhouse added: ‘I want fish farming to have a long-term future in Scotland, with companies continuing to invest. That’s one of the reasons for the introduction of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill. The Bill will support the aquaculture industry’s ambitions for sustainable growth, with due regard to the marine environment.’
Picture: On site at Lochailort: Ling Fen of COFCO, Marine Harvest managing director Alan Sutherland, environment minister Paul Wheelhouse and Marine Harvest business development manager Steve Bracken