Cod fish farm has islanders all at sea

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The Independent Online
In 1881, a freak tidal wave engulfed the tiny Scottish island of Easdale and flooded the quarries from which slate was mined. So began the decline of an industry for which Easdale had been famed.

Now plans to site Britain's first cod farm in the largest of seven flooded slate quarries has united the island's 60 permanent residents in bitter opposition. They say that the farm will mar Easdale's rugged views, cause pollution, damage marine ecology and drive away tourists.

Earlier this week, the planning committee of Argyll and Bute District Council met to decide whether to grant permission for the project to go ahead.

Senior officials had recommended acceptance of the plans by a Surrey-based company, Subsea Developments (UK) Ltd. But after considering objections from campaigners on Easdale and further afield, the committee voted to conduct a site inspection before making a decision.

Locals dislike the prospect of any change to the slow pace of life on Easdale, a rocky outcrop off the west coast of Scotland. Cars are banned from the island, which is connected to the mainland by a small ferry service.

Subsea Developments wants to rear cod within four floating fish cages in the quarry. It also plans to lay an underground pipe and build a lock system to enable boats bringing feed to enter from the sea.

The company says that the pounds 25,000 project would bring jobs and prosperity to Easdale. Its planning application, though, reveals that only three jobs would be created.

Residents have organised a petition against the farm, gathering 240 signatures from around Scotland, and have also sent individual letters of protest to the council.

Each year about 10,000 tourists make the five-minute ferry trip to Easdale from the neighbouring isle of Seil. A chief attraction is a folk museum devoted to the history of the slate industry.

Jean Adams, who runs the museum, fears that it may close if tourist numbers dwindle. She said she was also concerned that drilling work connected with the proposed development might cause underground slate seams to collapse, threatening nearby cottages.