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Also UK Wants To Start Tuna Farming

The Highlands could operate Britain’s first commercial tuna farm if a pilot project proves successful.

Scientists are studying ways of breeding and harvesting tuna on a commercial scale to meet the high demand for the fish.

The scientists, from Stirling and Strathclyde, are taking part in a £250,000 pilot project in a laboratory in Fort William, where they will try to breed a tuna that is common in UK waters.

The European Fisheries Fund project will take place this summer at the Ardtoe marine laboratory. If successful, the first farm could open by 2011.

Alex Muhlholzl, managing director of Oceanic Tuna Ltd, which is leading the project, believes the demand for sustainable tuna is huge.

He said: “Breeding the fish on a commercial scale is the holy grail, but we need to deal with a whole range of issues such as mortalities, cleaning the tanks and ensuring the welfare of the fish.

“We’ve decided to base this in Scotland because the calibre of expertise here is phenomenal.

“This would be something new for the aquaculture industry in Scotland. We are looking to develop a commercial industry here.”

The scientists will monitor how the fish adapt to captivity and establish the best conditions for breeding.

They believe that basing the farm in Scotland could spell the end of problems that have dogged the farmed salmon and trout industry.

Many thousands of farmed salmon have escaped from their cages at sites in the west of Scotland and there are grave concerns among campaigners about the survival of wild salmon because of that and the additional problem of sea lice.

Environmentalist Bruce Sandison is cautiously optimistic about the tuna project.

“If the tuna farm is using closed containment on land there is no possibility of an impact on the marine environment or freshwater lochs and that is to be welcomed,” he said.

“What puzzles me is if this can be done for tuna why can’t it be done for salmon? It’s about time the Scottish Government stopped encouraging polluting fish farms in our coastal waters.”