ONE of Scotland’s biggest salmon farmers has taken delivery of a new boat that it says will help it improve sustainability and maintain better welfare for its fish.

Scottish Sea Farms, Scotland’s second largest farmed salmon producer, says the Scottish-built boat, Geraldine Mary, is semi-hybrid – partly battery powered – and will help the company reduce fuel costs, CO2 emissions and noise.

The boat’s size, with capacity for a heavy-duty crane, also means it can better handle the company’s bigger 120 metre and 160m marine pens.

Innes Weir, regional production manager for mainland at Scottish Sea Farms, said the move to fewer but bigger nets and pens was part of an ongoing drive to enhance fish health and welfare.

“Increasing the size of pens allows for greater separation between fish stocks and predators, while reducing the number of pens enables even more focused husbandry and fish health monitoring,” Mr Weir said.

The Geraldine Mary was designed and built by Macduff Shipyard at Macduff Harbour, Aberdeenshire and is on long-term contract to Scottish Sea Farms from Mull-based Inverlussa Marine Services.

Scottish Sea Farms has 58 active marine farms around Scotland’s west coast and Northern Isles, along with three freshwater hatcheries and three processing and packing facilities

The company said the Geraldine Mary would primarily service its mainland marine estate of 24 salmon farms, particularly those with the larger pens.

Scottish Sea Farms said the Geraldine Mary complemented its first fully hybrid workboat, the Laurence Knight, also commissioned by Inverlussa.

Inverlussa managing director Ben Wilson said the decision to introduce a semi-hybrid power system on the Geraldine Mary was a cost-effective and time-efficient way of amending an existing design – compared to going fully hybrid with a complete redesign.

“It’s a vessel design we’ve had a lot of good experience with, and the semi-hybrid system is a big improvement on having generators running overnight,” Mr Wilson said.

Salmon Scotland, the industry body representing salmon farmers, says Scotland’s salmon farmers have a lower carbon footprint than most other farming sectors.

They also use less freshwater and produce more edible meat for every tonne of feed used, the body says.