SCOTLAND’S largest fish farmer Marine Harvest is slashing up to 100 jobs after a drop in production and a profit warning.

The company, which employs nearly 700 people at more than 50 sites in Scotland, is cutting its workforce as part of a restructuring plan to make the business more efficient and sustainable.

Workers were given the news at a meeting with staff representatives who were told the firm was changing its operations, giving them a 30-day notice period of consultation over which posts will go.

The restructuring will affect jobs in different departments across all the regions.

Marine Harvest has four hatcheries, five freshwater loch sites and 48 sea farms, situated in Wester Ross, the Western Isles, Skye, Argyll, Inverness-shire and Lochaber.

Live fish are harvested at Mallaig and processed at the Blar Mhor processing plant in Fort William. There are also offices at Fort William and Rosyth.

Ben Hadfield, managing director of Marine Harvest Scotland, said the firm was having to make changes to meet new challenges.

He added: “We will be sorry to see staff leaving as we have a highly skilled and talented team here at Marine Harvest Scotland. However, the industry is moving at a fast pace and fish farming is in a very different place today from where it was 10 or even five years ago.

“We have to ensure the business is sustainable and is fit to meet the challenges we face moving forward. By taking this action now we can be more certain of maintaining jobs in the future.”

Marine Harvest is contacting local agencies and politicians and says it will do everything it can to assist staff in gaining new employment.

The processing plant at Rosyth is not affected by the job losses as it is part of the Marine Harvest Consumer Products division and not Marine Harvest Scotland.

Plans to create a feed plant in Scotland will continue.

Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd is the largest salmon farming company in Scotland, producing more than 50,000 tonnes in 2015.

The main markets for its fresh salmon are the UK, France, USA, Poland and China.

It celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and holds the Royal Warrant for the supply of fresh farmed salmon to Her Majesty the Queen.

In a statement the company revealed: “Following a recent review of the business up to 100 jobs will be reduced to make the business more efficient and sustainable. Harvesting volumes for 2016 will not be impacted by the restructuring plan.”

Marine Harvest also reported its harvest volumes for the fourth quarter of 2015 totalled 111,000 tonnes, slightly below the projected 115,000 tonnes.

The farming operations in Norway reported 67,000 tonnes, Scotland 14,000 tonnes, Canada 9,000 tonnes and Chile 15,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, there are fears for the ancient tradition of haaf netting, a method which dates back to Viking times and is practised on the Solway Firth in south-west Scotland and north-west England, as new regulations to protect Scottish wild salmon stocks are set to be introduced.

From April 1, there will be a three-year ban on killing fish outside estuary limits and strict controls on numbers in inland waters.

Tom Florey, who manages the Caerlaverock Estate, said the ban would affect the tradition on the River Nith.