Organic seal of approval
18th January 2021
Skye’s newest salmon farming initiative has officially received organic certification this month.
Organic Sea Harvest (OSH), an independent fish farming start-up based on north-east Skye, received confirmation from leading organic certifier, the UK Soil Association, that OSH meets the standards for organic fish farming. This seal of approval will allow OSH to continue their mission of becoming the world’s leading organic salmon farmer and bring further benefits to the local communities.
Commenting on the achievement, OSH Fish Health and Welfare Technical Manager, Adam Rainsden, stated: “This certification is confirmation of the effort the team at Organic Sea Harvest puts into ensuring the welfare of our livestock is maximised.
“We follow a strict set of rules and regulations that go above and beyond statutory requirements. Audits are carried out by third party organisations. You cannot simply bang a drum and claim to use organic methods – it must be proven.”
In keeping with their organic principles, OSH operates with a reduced stocking density, ensuring the density of fish is significantly lower than conventional or non-organic farms. At any point during OSH’s production cycle, the stocking densities equate to 99-99.9% water and only 0.1-1% fish, maximising the animals’ freedom to grow and thrive.
The site locations are hand-picked to create the best conditions for the fish as well as the environment. Adam commented:
“Our sites are situated in deep, high water exchange locations with true marine water passing through them. This ensures a high, constant oxygen supply, allowing the fish to readily develop in the clear, open waters of North East Skye.”
Mark Machin, Business Development Manager at the Soil Association, commented: “Soil Association Certification congratulates Organic Sea Harvest on successfully achieving their organic registration. Organic standards aim to deliver the highest levels of animal welfare, protecting human and animal health, and safeguarding the environment.”
OSH’s organic focus has already had an impact further afield in terms of improving standards for nurturing eggs and juveniles. Their long-term partners at their Gairloch hatchery, Landcatch Natural Selection, are renovating and upgrading their hatchery to reduce tank stocking densities and deliver the large, healthy juveniles – while complying at all times to the strict organic standards that OSH require.
OSH spokesperson and Founding Director, Alex MacInnes, commented:
“Our dedicated hatchery, Landcatch Natural Selection, will be producing almost all of our organic juveniles as part of a £1.1 million investment. We are delighted that this partnership enables us to expand our local ties and invest in our own community.”
OSH currently have two fish farm sites on the Isle of Skye. Plans for a third fish farm have been submitted to the Highland Council, with the outcome to be decided on Tuesday 26 January. The farm is planned for the north end of Skye at Balmaqueen and, when at full production, would directly create nine full-time jobs.
Alex stated: “Between the months of March and October last year, there was a 171% rise in the amount of people looking for work in Skye and Lochalsh, which is obviously of a real concern locally.
“We are in an area where sustainable jobs are greatly needed and, if our site plans get the go-ahead, this will create full-time employment within an area which is already fragile. Nine jobs would be a significant number for the region and much-needed during this unique and difficult time.
“So far, Organic Sea Harvest have invested over £13 million in the local economy and we use local suppliers whenever possible. We are committed to nurturing our environment and the people who live in it.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The UK Soil organic certificates for OSH are dated from 8 January 2021.
OSH was officially incorporated in August 2015.
The first harvest for the market is expected in Spring 2021.
OSH currently employ 12 full-time staff members at two Skye sea sites, Culnacnoc and Invertote, and seven others attached to administrative functions. OSH also have partnerships with 31 Skye businesses. So far, OSH have invested more than £13 million in the local economy and will invest an additional £4 million if plans for the Balmaqueen site are approved.
The salinity of the marine water is at 34-35ppt and stocking densities are maintained below 10kg/m3. Further information on OSH farming procedures is available upon request.
Two founding members of OSH, Alister Mackinnon and Alex MacInnes, are Highland Council councillors for the Dingwall & Seaforth and Wester Ross, Strathpeffer & Lochalsh wards respectively.
Scottish fish farming directly employs 2,300 people, according to a recent report by economist, Richard Marsh. A report undertaken by Biggar Economics on behalf of Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government stated that, in 2018, the aquaculture sector supported 11,700 jobs in the Scottish economy. Therefore, it can be calculated that each job in Scottish aquaculture will indirectly create four other Scottish jobs.
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today, the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.
All accompanying photographs by OSH.
For further information, please contact:
Roz Macaskill – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01478 612700
Alex MacInnes - OSH spokesperson and Founding Director – email@example.com