Residents on a remote Scottish island have told fish farm bosses that they are not prepared to trade the lure of jobs for their precious marine environment.

An incredible 87 percent of residents on Eigg in the Inner Hebrides have voted against the prospect of a “devastating” scheme from the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon.

There was a turnout of 92 percent among those eligible to vote from the island’s population of 109.

The result is even more surprising given that the neighbouring Small Islands of Rum and Muck have welcomed fish farms, which have boosted their fragile populations and economies.

But Eigg has the reputation of being a showcase green island and residents are worried about potential pollution from fish farming.

The industry has been at the centre of several controversies, including over the use of chemical treatments, sea lice infestation, disease, waste pollution and fish escapes.

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Following a meeting in October with MOWI Scotland - the fish farming company who have obtained a lease option agreement for a proposed site at the north end of the island - the Isle of Eigg Residents Association held a ballot.

It asked if islanders were supportive of fish farm development off the island’s coast?

The result was “overwhelming,” said Maggie Fyffe of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, the community group which owns the island.

“It was rejected because of environmental concerns. We hope that’s the end of it because MOWI said right at the beginning that if the community did not want it they would back off,” she said.

Prior to the meeting with MOWI, concerned residents had undertaken research into the potential impact of fish farms on biodiversity, wildlife, waters and coastline around the island.

Eigg Environmental Action Group said:”A farm of the size proposed (16 x 160m cages) could have been devastating to our marine environment. Negative impacts on tourism and the ‘green’ businesses which are vital to our economy and community, were a further concern.

“A wide range of questions about the environmental, economic and social impact were put to MOWI at the meeting, after which MOWI wrote to assure the Isle of Eigg Residents’ Association that if the community were not behind the proposed development, the company’s lease option agreement would not be pursued. The subsequent community vote has ensured Eigg’s view on MOWI’s and any future proposed fish farms is clear.”

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The community’s response to MOWI and their decisive vote against fish farm development were welcomed by the Eigg Environmental Action Group, who are concerned about the cumulative impact of more fish farms in the area.

“The Small Isles are amongst the very few islands in Scotland given National Scenic Area status and form one of the most environmentally protected areas of sea in Scotland,” it added.

“It is vital that the cumulative impact of fish farm expansion in the Small Isles and North West coast is taken into account if Eigg is to successfully protect our island’s unique coastal landscapes and its precious marine environment. We hope to work together with other island and coastal communities around Scotland who are being targeted by industrialised fish farm developments and are looking for alternative small scale, sustainable solutions.”

MOWI says on its website that aquaculture is “transforming” the seafood industry and Mowi is playing an important role in that change - “leading the way with sustainability, innovation and responsibility.”

“We grow our salmon in the remote and pristine waters of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland. We provide jobs and support fragile rural economies in some of the most remote communities in the country,” it says.

“Scotland’s salmon farmers have some of the strongest credentials of all the farming sectors, particularly with regards to sustainability with a lower carbon footprint than chicken, beef or pig farming. We’re also amongst the most highly regulated of all salmon farming countries in terms of both fish welfare and the environment, and invest millions year-on-year to find ever better ways of doing things.”

MOWI also say there is a lot of “misleading” misinformation about the environmental impacts of salmon farming “which have the potential to jeopardise much-needed jobs, reduce business for local suppliers, and diminish the sector’s significant contribution to the economy in terms of salaries, tax and export value.”

About five miles long by three miles wide, Eigg lies 10 miles off the Scottish West coast.

The community-led Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust famously bought the island for £1.5m in 1997, largely funded by a mystery donation from a millionairess.

As well as its abundance of wildlife, the island is hailed for its use of renewable energy - including a power system dubbed “Eigg-tricity” - and its community broadband network, which has helped to attract new residents from a range of different professions.

Eigg is also said to be the most eco-conscious isle in the country with a range of green projects and businesses.