The Shetland Oil Disaster: Salmon farmers hit by ban on sales fear ruin: The 'Braer' oil slick is putting an island industry at risk. Oliver Gillie reports

SALMON in the oil-polluted waters of southern Shetland are beginning to sicken, and fish farmers are facing bankruptcy with losses running into millions of pounds.

Robert Gardiner, manager of Shetland Sea Farms, a company with fish at three sites in the polluted area, went out from Scalloway yesterday in a small boat to inspect his salmon. The wind, blowing at gale force nine, scattered the thin film of oil on the surface of the water into bright streaks. Where the waves broke against the shore they dissolved into brown froth, showing that oil was dispersed beneath the surface layer.

In the lee of North Havra, a small island two or three miles from Scalloway, Mr Gardiner has cages containing pounds 2.4m worth of mature salmon ready to sell. But sale of these fish has now been banned by the Government.

'I have 200,000 fish here worth more than pounds 10 each,' Mr Gardiner said, 'and I don't know what to do. I can't go on feeding them when the pellets cost pounds 800 a ton. The installation at North Havra cost over pounds 1m and now that investment is at risk.'

We landed on the walkway beside the Havra and immediately saw the rainbow hue of oil on the surface of the water. Mr Gardiner threw out some seed pellets but only a few large fish came to the surface.

'Something is badly wrong here,' he said, 'these fish have not been fed for six days. They should be boiling on the surface, racing to get the food.

'If the oil was only on the surface the fish would be all right but when it is mixed into the water underneath it gets on to their gills and poisons them.'

Shetland fish farmers asked the Government not to spray chemical dispersant on to the oil, fearing that rapid dispersion of the oil would put their fish at greater risk. Dispersants also make booms less effective by taking the oil beneath the surface.

Nevertheless, the Department of Transport's Marine Pollution Control Unit sprayed the slick last week with more than 15 tons of a dispersant, Dispolene 34S, banned in Norway because of its toxicity. The spraying was suspended on Saturday after islanders threatened to demonstrate on the airport runway.

As the wind increased, with hurricane force winds gusting to 100mph or more forecast for later in the day, Mr Gardiner struggled to put a boom in position. The oil absorbant matting soaks up surface oil but Mr Gardiner had only been able to obtain 175 metres when he needs 1,500 metres.

'The booms have been sent up from the Department of Transport's Marine Pollution Control Unit in Southampton but there is not enough of it,' he said.

'They have also sent us mechanical booms but they are useless. They will never stand up to the weather here. The anchors and chain are too flimsy.'

Mr Gardiner's company, Shetland Sea Farms is facing financial disaster. He cannot sell the fish because the Government has banned sales from the area, and he cannot afford to go on feeding them. The mature fish may survive for five or six weeks without food, living off their fat, but the younger fish will go out of condition within two weeks.

'Our insurance does not cover us for this,' Mr Gardiner said. 'We are only covered if the fish die within 30 days of something happening and this oil produces a chronic condition which will not kill them for a long time.'

Help will have to come from the Government, or the Shetland Islands Council, if the stricken fish farmers are to survive financially. Already, a quarter of Shetland salmon farmers who produce fish worth pounds 35m a year are affected by the slick.

Eleven salmon farms, producing fish worth pounds 10m annually, are in the polluted area defined by the Government so are not allowed to sell their fish for human consumption.

Fish farming in Shetland employs 838 people, including those involved in processing. It is the islands' second-largest industry, smaller only than oil.

The release of more oil in storms forecast for the next few days could spread the slick over the whole western part of the island, putting more than half of the Shetland salmon industry in jeopardy.

Mr Gardiner said: 'When Windsor Castle went up in flames the Government said the same day that it would pay for it to be built again. This disaster happened five days ago and we are still waiting to hear what help we are going to get.'

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone