Meil Bay

Current project status

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

Meil Bay salmon farm is located at Bay of Meil, NE of Kirkwall. It has been in operation in its current form since 2005 and operated by Cooke Aquaculture Scotland (CAS) since 2014. Our aim is to relocate the farm into deeper, more dispersive water to reduce impacts on the receiving environment. We also plan to modernise the site using the latest equipment with significant benefits to the local economy and supply chain. Find out more below.

Comments on the project 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.

This project will be undertaken in conjunction with our Quanterness project (details here) to secure the long term viability of our Kirkwall production area.

Application Stage: Pre-application discussions
Consultation Period: 20th September 2022 to 1st November 2022
Deadline for comments to be received: 1st November 2022

The existing site consists of 10 x 100m circumference salmon pens in a 60 m x 60 m size mooring grid. There is a feed barge on site and a total allowable fish weight of 884 tonnes.

The proposed development will be redeveloped and relocated approximately 300 m NNW of the existing site and will consist of 16 x 100m circumference pens in a 8 x 2 formation. There will also be a feed barge on site moored to the west of the pen group and a maximum allowable weight of fish of 1410 tonnes.

The new site will be relocated approximately 300 m NNW of the existing site into deeper water with higher current speeds. These factors mean the proposed location is more dispersive and is more suitable for fish farming. We have collected hydrographic and bathymetric data, undertaken detailed modelling of the area, and have also conducted visual seabed surveys of the new location. This data has confirmed the suitability of the proposed location for development.

By relocating the site into deeper water with higher current speeds, we can increase the maximum biomass at the site to 1410 tonnes whilst ensuring any effects on the environment are minimised. The modernisation of the farm at Meil Bay will help to safeguard the long term viability of not only the staff which are directly employed at the site, but also the 41 staff who work at our processing facility at Hatston.

Should an application for planning permission be made for the proposed site, an Environmental Impact Assessment is likely to be required. The following considerations will be made in that assessment:

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 new site. These surveys include seabed sampling and an ROV survey to see the seabed.

Any potential effects by aquaculture on the benthic environment and water column are regulated by SEPA under Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) and by Marine Scotland. The proposed development of Meil Bay 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 chemical discharges from the site, and establish statutory monitoring protocols.

Protected Species and Habitats

The Meil Bay site is located in the North Orkney Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for migratory birds. We are currently conducting summer and winter bird surveys in the Kirkwall area to better understand the habitats for the environmental impact assessment.

There are five seal haul-out sites within the vicinity of the current and proposed site. 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 new Meil Bay site.

The use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) within the Scottish aquaculture industry is strictly controlled by the Marine Scotland Licencing Operations Team (MS-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 the Orkney Islands Council as the planning authority, and NatureScot. A Seascape, Landscape, and Visual Amenity Assessment (SLVIA) will be conducted to assess the likely change in visual amenity from the development.

The effect of noise on the nearest landfall from the development during construction and operation will be assessed. In terms of visual impact and noise, the proposal is for the relocation of a long established farm, so significant additional cumulative effects are not anticipated.


Cooke Aquaculture Scotland recognise the importance of responsible operations across the business. By setting the foundations of sustainability in our core values, we build up a robust culture of commitment to our common goal of sustainable development. The modernisation of Meil Bay is in line with the company sustainability goals, and will allow us to put improvements in place to meet those goals.

CAS have commissioned an independent assessment of our economic impact in the islands. As well as paying salaries significantly above the Orkney average to our 122 staff in the County; we put money into the economy by investing in our farms and other facilities and spending with local suppliers. On average, we’ve invested an average of almost £3 million of capital a year in new buildings, infrastructure and farms around Orkney – a total of £18.27 million during 2016-2021. That includes investing more than £1.25 million in our Kirkwall packing station and £16.63 million in our farms.

As the only salmon farmer in Orkney to process our fish locally, we employ over 41 people at our processing and packing facility in Kirkwall. That’s in addition to our management and operational jobs on Mainland Orkney.

The expansion and relocation of Meil Bay will safeguard our operations, and increase spending across the Orkney supply chain, putting even more money into the local economy.

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 Aquaculture only.
  1. Do you have any comments on the location or scale of the project?
  2. Do you have any local knowledge of environmental factors we should be considering?
  3. Any other comments
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.