Monday, 11 March 2013

Farming the Sea - 1

This is Greadal Fhinn, a neolithic chambered cairn located in Ormsaigmore.  Structures like this stand like milestones in human history, as these cairns could only have been built by people who were farming the land so successfully they had spare time in which to build them.  Before that, our ancestors were nomadic hunter-gatherers: the men killed animals or caught fish, the women and children scoured the countryside for what they could find to eat.

As far as the oceans are concerned, we're still hunter-gatherers.  We send out men and women with nets and creels and harpoons and even their bare hands, and we gather what we want.  In the face of falling fish stocks, some efforts have been made to control fishing, but it's been a struggle.  We've destroyed great stocks of fish, such as cod, herring and tuna, we've argued with our neighbours about fishing rights, and we've even fought wars to preserve our right to fish in some parts of the seas.  As a species, we've failed to exploit the potential of fish farming.

Fish farming is the future in the face of our growing demand for fish, one of the most nutritious and healthy of foods.  Without it, salmon would be off the ordinary man and woman's menu; it would once again be the food of the rich and privileged.  The fish farming industry would admit to having made mistakes with their early farms, but the damage we did on land when we were developing the intensive farming methods that stock our today's supermarket shelves with such a wealth of different foods were even worse.  The Diary is old enough to remember DDT and the lessons we learnt from it.

To visit Marine Harvest's facilities at Camas Glas (see earlier post here) was to see the future.  Almost a million salmon will be reared there over the next eighteen months or so by eight workers.  Six of them come from West Ardnamurchan, and their jobs help to keep young families in this remote area.  And it's good work: mostly it's eight to five, with occasional weekend work - people are on the cages every day unless the weather is truly terrible - good pay, good holidays, and excellent working conditions, starting with the morning 'commute' to work in a RIB.

The nerve centre of this farm is the C-Cap.  Built by Gael Force of Inverness, it's a floating concrete cylinder with a metal superstructure which acts as both an accommodation area and store room, which is moored near the two groups of cages.

It contains four large silos holding a hundred tonnes of fish food - farm manager Rosie Curtis is seen here sitting on the cover of the silos.  Food is delivered by ships such as Ferguson Transport's Harvest Anne, which we often see passing Ormsaigbeg, and each cage of some 100,000 fish receives about 75kg of food each day.

However, for the first six weeks or so the smolts are fed by hand - this picture shows a bucket of the food and the high-tech plastic shovel that delivers it.  Farm manager Rosie says that they are fed by hand so the staff can get to know the fish.

The Diary is very grateful to Marine Harvest for the invitation to visit their Camas Glas facility, and to Rosie Curtis and Calum MacPhail for a very enjoyable tour.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you jon... as always most interesting.