LARGS MSP Jamie Greene has visited a fish farm to learn more about a company's controversial plans for a similar project off the Cumbrae islands.

He said his visit to the Dawnfresh facility in Loch Earn was an interesting opportunity to learn more about the plans and get first hand experience of their operation.

Dawnfresh claim the development will bring economic benefits and a jobs boost to the area and say aquaculture and marine tourism can go hand in hand.

Mr Greene said: "While the fishing industry is important to Scotland’s economy, concerns over the environmental impact around Cumbrae continue to linger.

“I will continue to engage with fish farms such as Dawnfresh to ensure that we can help this industry grow whilst developing better practice to make sure that we continue to protect the environment.”

As well as issues around the release of chemicals into local waters, protestors opposing the plan have raised concerns about the use of acoustic deterrent devices and shooting seals as a marine mammal mitigation strategy.

Peter MacDougall, Environmental Manager for Dawnfresh, hit back, saying: "When the screening and scoping application was submitted, care was taken to include all possible predator control methods to demonstrate to our regulators that all options to preserve fish welfare had been considered.

"Dawnfresh as a company took the decision in 2015 to stop the practice of shooting seals. We do not intend to change this standpoint.

"With regards acoustic deterrents, their use will depend on whether they are appropriate for the location. In areas with high cetacean population, Scottish Natural Heritage heavily restrict the use to very short periods and only with prior written agreement and in response to a specific predation issue or alternatively they will prevent the use of acoustic deterrents altogether."

Mr McDougall believes tourism and aquaculture can co-exist.

He said: "Marine tourism is growing in the west coast of Scotland and has done over the past 10 years, this has been apparent in many areas where aquaculture is present. Sightseeing tours and yachting can and do coexist with aquaculture and I have not seen any evidence to suggest that the presence of a fish farm would cause a reduction in visitor numbers.

"The proposal would create 12 permanent jobs directly on the two Cumbrae sites, with the jobs being based on Great Cumbrae.

"The proposal is part of a larger project of expansion which includes additional sites off the coast of Bute and Ardentinny. In order to service all four sites, two netwashing boats and one larger landing craft will be needed and these will be required seven days a week. This will create 12 additional full time positions with three crews of two on a rota.

"Third party contractors would also be required such as divers, marine engineers, boat yard services, fuel supply and electricians."

Clyde Porpoise - a local environmental group - say that the marine mammal information contained in their scoping opinions carried out by Dawnfresh is inaccurate and provides an unrealistic assessment of porpoise abundance and density around the proposed cage sites.

Scottish Natural Heritage has also raised resident porpoise population as a concern, with a full assessment of the project to be undertaken before it moves forward.