By Susy Macaulay
Appeared in Press and Journal, Stornoway Gazette, Dec 2009
A Sutherland-based salmon farm operation has agreed to provide vital sea-water sampling services in North Uist for Scottish Government agency Marine Scotland, formerly known as Aberdeen Fisheries Research Services Marine Lab.
Loch Duart Ltd currently produces around 1800 tonnes of salmon from its sites in the Uists. Their Lochmaddy-based staff will now take water samples from Lochmaddy Bay for two long-term monitoring programmes being carried out by Marine Scotland.
The collaboration came about after the sudden death of Dr John MacLeod, chairman of North Uist marine society, Comann na Mara (CNM).
Dr MacLeod had been carrying out the sampling for the lab on behalf of CNM from 2003 until his death three months ago.
CNM’s new chairman Gus Macaulay said he was determined that the society should continue to help the researchers and sounded out Loch Duart staff about taking on the task.
He said: “Lochmaddy Bay is a marine special area of conservation and one of the Scottish Government’s long-term monitoring sites. We felt it was vital for the research to continue.”
Marine Scotland researchers Matt Geldart and Sheila Fraser visited Lochmaddy to talk Loch Duart’s local site manager John Paul Walker, Hebrides director Alan Anderson and fish biologist Alicia MacDonald through the sampling process.
The staff will now ensure samples of seawater are taken from the same GPS location in the bay each week.
The samples will be sent to Marine Scotland’s Aberdeen lab on a monthly basis.
At the lab, Mr Geldart, an oceanographic engineer, will monitor the water’s salinity and the presence in it of nutrients.
Mrs Fraser is monitoring levels of phytoplankton, tiny marine organisms, in samples taken from a 30ft water column.
Loch Duart staff will also take responsibility for looking after a temperature recording device which is suspended from Lochmaddy pier.
Loch Duart director Andy Bing said: “Loch Duart is delighted to help out in any way. Fish farms are often useful eyes and ears out at sea. We are very excited to learn about the marine environment in which we work, and Loch Duart has always recognised its responsibilities to the community and environment.”
Mr Geldart said: “We are pleased that the long-term monitoring work can continue. It will take a good ten years before anything meaningful can be drawn from the research findings.”
Mrs Fraser said: “Phytoplankton are indicative of the health of marine environment and it is essential to monitor what is happening in an environmentally sensitive area like Lochmaddy Bay.”