Current project status

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

Quanterness salmon farm is located in Wide Firth, NW of Kirkwall. It has been in operation in its current form since 2004 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 redevelop this 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 Meil Bay 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 8 x 90m circumference salmon pens in a 50 m x 50 m size mooring grid. The current maximum biomass of the farm is 600 tonnes. Should the proposed development be consented, this existing site will be decommissioned.

The proposed development will be relocated approximately 530m NE of the existing site, in deeper, more dispersive water and will consist of 16 x 120 m circumference pens in a 8 x 2 formation with a maximum allowable fish weight of 2200 tonnes. There will also be a feed barge on site moored to the south of the pens.

The proposed development will be located approximately 530 m NE 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.

The existing farm consists of 8 x 90m pens and is without a feed barge. The industry in Scotland is rapidly moving to significantly larger pens (up to 200m circumference) in order to reduce predator interactions, improve fish welfare, and maximise efficiency. The existing equipment is outdated and requires modernisation in order to secure the long term future of the farm and the staff we employ to operate it.

The existing site at Quanterness is located within the proximity of Hatston pier at Kirkwall.  The Orkney Harbours Masterplan has highlighted the area as a key development priority, with proposals for a significant quayside extension towards the existing farm at Quanterness, as well as large reclamation for laydown areas. The close proximity of this development to the existing farm is another key motivation for relocation.

Should an application for planning permission be made for the proposed development, 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 a visual survey of the seabed to identify any sensitive benthic habitats or species.

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 Quanterness 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 to establish statutory monitoring protocols.

Protected Species and Habitats

The Quanterness site is located in the North Orkney Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for migratory birds. We are currently conducting summer and winter bird surveys across the proposed development location and along the likely vessel transit route to Kirkwall harbour. This will allow a rigorous understanding of the use of habitats in the area by sensitive bird species 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 would be used at the proposed development should it become operational.

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 Quanterness is in line with the company sustainability goals, and will allow us to put improvements in place to meet those goals such as a hybrid powered feed barge to reduce carbon emissions and generator noise.

CAS has commissioned an independent assessment of our economic impact in the islands during the period 2016 – 2021. 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 modernisation of Quanterness 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 cas.environment@cookeaqua.com 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.