Skelwick Skerry (Re-development)

Current project status

  • Site selection process
  • Pre-application discussions
  • Screening and scoping application
  • Planning application
  • Application determination

Cooke Scotland is proposing to re-develop the existing Atlantic salmon farm Skelwick Skerry in the North Sound, Orkney. The existing site has shown the potential of using ‘high energy’ areas, located away from near-coastal waters, for rearing strong and healthy fish whilst minimising potential effects on the environment. Cooke Scotland is proposing to increase the size of the existing pens and increase the tonnage of fish farmed at the site. Comments on the proposal are now open to the local community prior to beginning the official planning and consenting process for the development. Send us your comments using the feedback form below. For an overview of how the planning process works, click here.

Application Stage: Pre-application discussions
Consultation Period: 28th November 2023 to 29th November 2023
Deadline for comments to be received: 27th December 2023

The proposed expanded site at Skelwick Skerry would consist of 8 x 160m circumference salmon pens arranged in two rows of four pens with an associated increase in maximum biomass from 2,500 tonnes (t) to 4,000 t. The farm would be serviced on a daily basis from our existing shorebase on Westray.

Cooke Scotland is a leader in the development of ‘high energy’ fish farms in Scotland. Several production cycles at the existing site have shown that the high energy environment at this location creates optimal growing conditions that promote excellent fish welfare whilst also minimising our interactions with the environment and potentially sensitive receptors in the wider area. Upgrading the pens from 130 m circumference to 160 m circumference will enable an increase in production whilst making the equipment consistent with that at our new high energy site at East Moclett. This will improve operational efficiency whilst also providing a safer working environment for our staff.

The planning process for the proposed re-development will require an accompanying Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted, the scope of which will be guided by Orkney Islands Council in liaison with statutory consultees. Assessment of the potential impact on the following receptors are anticipated to be required in the EIA:

Benthic and Water Column Effects

Prior to finalising the project and applying for planning permission, we will conduct extensive baseline surveys of the area surrounding the expanded site. These surveys include seabed sampling and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) survey to map seabed habitats, including any Priority Marine Features (PMFs) within the extended vicinity of the proposed farm.

Any potential effects of aquaculture on the benthic environment and water column are regulated by SEPA under Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) and by Marine Scotland. The proposed expansion of Skelwick Skerry will require a CAR Licence from SEPA to regulate the maximum weight of fish to be held on site, the scale and rate of nutrient and any chemical discharges from the site, and establish statutory monitoring protocols. It can be noted that Skelwick Skerry is accredited as an organic site by the Soil Association and as such the use of medicinal treatments is highly restricted.

Nature Conservation Designations, Protected Species and Habitats

There are a range of nature conservation designated areas within the wider area, including Papa Westray Marine Protected Area (designated for Black guillemot and the geomorphology of the seabed), Calf of Eday Special Protection Area (designated for four species of breeding seabird) and Faray and Holm of Faray Special Area of Conservation (designated for grey seals). Priority Marine Features recorded in the area include seagrass and maerl beds. There are also four designated seal haul-out sites within the wider area (Westray and Papa Westray), including Spo Ness to Ness of Brough and Holm of Papa Westray and Northwick haul out sites in the vicinity of the proposed development. There is also a seal breeding colony haul out on the south west tip of Westray. The potential impacts of the Skelwick Skerry development on all designated features and wider environmental receptors will be assessed in a comprehensive EIA proposed to ensure that all potential effects are accounted for.

Predator defence

Tensioned cage nets provide the first line of defence against seal attacks. Pen nets are constructed with twine which is strengthened with marine grade stainless steel. These have been proven effective at reducing seal interactions at sites and will be used at the expanded Skelwick Skerry site.

The use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) within the Scottish aquaculture industry is strictly controlled by the Marine Directorate – Licencing Operations Team (MD-LOT). A European Protected Species (EPS) Licence is required before any ADD system can be deployed and permission to use ADDs is also required from the planning authority and NatureScot.

Visual amenity and Noise

Effects on landscape and visual amenity are regulated by Orkney Islands Council as the planning authority, and NatureScot. A Seascape, Landscape, and Visual Amenity Assessment (SLVIA) will be conducted to assess any change in visual amenity from the development. The effect of noise on the nearest landfall from the development during construction and operation will also be assessed.

Navigation and Other Commercial and Non-commercial Maritime Activities

We will consult with local marine stakeholders for example: commercial fisheries, Northern Lighthouse Board, Orkney Islands Council Harbours and Marine Services, and the Scottish RYA. We will work with these stakeholders to ensure that the proposed sites are considerate of other marine users.


Cooke Scotland recognise the importance of responsible operations across the business. By setting the foundations of sustainability, we build up a robust culture of commitment to our common goal of a sustainable business.

Aquaculture stands out as one of the most sustainable sources of protein production. For example, farmed salmon has a lower carbon footprint when compared with chicken, pork or beef.

The FAIRR Initiative assesses 60 of the largest publicly traded global meat, dairy and aquaculture companies in terms of social, environmental and governance themes in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the 2023/2024 Collar FAIRR Protein Producer Index, seven out of the top ten protein producers are salmon farmers. This illustrates the long term sustainability of the sector.

Cooke Scotland invests into the local economy by investing in our farms and other facilities and spending with local suppliers.

Cooke Scotland is one of the largest employers in Orkney and sustainable growth of the business enables us to create new jobs and secure the jobs of existing facilities. We plan to not only invest in our people and development but also the local communities we support. Since 2016 we have spent over over £325,000 in local communities in Orkney through our Community Benefit Fund and with new developments we plan to invest further in the local communities we work within.

If you have any questions about the proposed project that have not been answered here or in our FAQ page, you can contact us at and we will endeavour to answer your query as soon as we can.

Please note this is for queries only. Any comments you would like to be considered should be submitted using the feedback form below.

Project Feedback Form
Please use the box below to send us your comments on the proposed project. This is your chance to provide feedback at the pre-application stage. All comments we receive will be used to inform the future progression of the proposed development. It should be noted that any feedback at this stage is for Cooke Scotland only.
  1. Is there anything you would change about the proposals as outlined (e.g. scale or location)?
  2. Are there any potential constraints to development or sensitivities in this location which we have not highlighted?
  3. Any other comments
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.