Page last updated at 23:22 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 00:22 UK

Fish workers to live on sea farms

Salmon is already farmed out to sea in Norway and Canada

Workers could soon be living on moored barges under plans to extend salmon farming further off the Scottish coast.

Marine Harvest said its proposed "open sea" system for large, residential fish farms would involve a £40m investment and create up to 40 jobs.

Possible sites include the seas off the Outer Hebrides, Highlands and Argyll and Bute.

They would be the first of their kind in Scotland, and three times the size of existing farms.

Residential fish farms are already operated in Norway and Canada.

The proposals have been outlined to Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

If given the go-ahead, Marine Harvest said it would build four sites and hopes to begin stocking them by September 2012.

We have been looking at the opportunities that exist and believe the future of fish farming lies further offshore
Alan Sutherland
Marine Harvest Scotland

Marine Harvest said it has permission from the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed, to place monitoring equipment in 12 sites around the Minch.

The equipment will gather data which will allow them to assess the best sites for expansion. Marine Harvest would then submit planning applications to the relevant council for the preferred sites.

As well as the staff working on the residential fish farms, the company plans to set up a shore base on Barra.

Alan Sutherland, managing director of Marine Harvest Scotland, said: "We have been looking at the opportunities that exist and believe the future of fish farming lies further offshore.

"This is possible if we use residential fish farms similar to the systems which we already use in Norway and British Columbia where I previously worked."

On Monday, the Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO) said exports of Scottish farmed salmon had grown by 500% in the last 20 years.

The newly-published industry research report said about 52,600 tonnes were exported during 2008 alone.

It also reported that salmon farmers' spending put £500m into the UK economy last year with £290m of that money spent in the Highlands and Islands.

The SSPO said Scotland was now the second largest producer in the world. Norway is the biggest producer.

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