Scotland’s salmon farming sector generated more money than the entire UK fishing industry for the first time ever last year.
So reported Gilpin Bradley, interim Chair of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), in a keynote speech delivered at a conference on careers in aquaculture which took place at the University of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture today.
The third annual event of its kind to be organized by the Aquaculture Students' Association, under the guidance of Sam Houston, this year it was opened up to aquaculture students across Scotland, not just those studying at Stirling.
The event highlighted the wide range of jobs available in the aquaculture industry – both in Scotland and abroad – and attracted an impressive range of speakers, many of whom were formerly students at Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture: an institute widely regarded as ‘the Harvard or Yale’ of the aquaculture industry, according to Mr Bradley, who is also the head of Scotland's last independent salmon producer, Wester Ross Salmon.
Former alumni speaking at the event included Ronnie Soutar, currently President of the Fish Vet Society and MD of Aqualife Services – “the largest fish vaccination company in Europe, if not the world” – which now vaccinates over 100 million fish a year and has expanded from Scotland to provide its services across the globe, including Norway, Singapore, Iceland and Russia. In his talk he pointed to the need to diversify Aqualife to include species other than salmonids, pointing to their recent move into the cleanerfish market, and to be increasingly global in their coverage, in order to help balance out the seasonal nature of vaccination requirements. He also pointed to the company’s need to attract graduates to its ranks.
He was followed by another Fish Vet Society stalwart, Matthijs Metselaar, who is now Product Development Manager at Benchmark Animal Health. Having followed a fairly varied veterinary career, which included a shift as the resident vet at a greyhound racetrack in England, he became interested in fish health when working with ornamental species and decided to follow this up with a PhD in Stirling which involved research into red mark syndrome in rainbow trout. He urged the assembled students to keep their options open when it came to pursuing a career in aquaculture, but to maintain some form of focus by at least figuring out what it was they didn’t want to do so – in his case he decided that research was not his calling.
From further afield, Don Griffiths and Warren Turner both reported from Southeast Asia. Both erstwhile alumni of the Institute, the former is now the Fish Vet Group’s Asia Operations Director, having spent many years in the voluntary sector, and is now is attempting to reduce disease-related mortalities in the region from their current level of 30%. The latter, who is also based in Thailand, has set up his own successful tilapia farm, Nam Sei, and offered a tantalisingly tropical insight to inspire those Scottish-based students who might to wish for a career in warmer climes.
The event, which was organised in co-operation with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), was well attended by students from across Scotland and the number of industry stands demonstrated the sector’s ambitions to recruit graduates as it bids to double its revenue by 2030.