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New head aims to grow trade body

Julie Hesketh-Laird, the new chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, aims to make it the UK’s first truly representative trade body.

Six of the seven major salmon producers currently operating in Scotland are already SSPO members and confirmation this week that a new player – Organic Sea Harvest – has had approval granted for two new sites off Skye means that a seventh company could soon be in the fold.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, who replaced Scott Landsburgh this month, comes to the role after being the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association
Julie Hesketh-Laird, who replaced Scott Landsburgh this month, comes to the role after being the chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association

Although she’s not yet had a chance to speak with the owners or operators of OSH, she very much hopes that they will seek to join the PO.

“My colleagues have been [in talks with OSH]– I’m so new in the post that I’ve not met the owners yet but I’d very much like them to join,” she told The Fish Site. “How fantastic if we could be entirely representative of the whole industry – I don’t think any association in any sector can claim that and it would be great if we could have the SSPO in that position – not least because it makes my job easier to have the entire industry on board.”

Either way, she added, the news of the new player - which is now set to produce 5,000 tonnes of organic salmon per cycle  - should be viewed as a huge positive for the industry as a whole.

“The arrival of a new entrant is great news for the industry and shows that there’s long term confidence from people with money to invest in sustainable farming,” she said.  

To achieve a clean sweep of all the marine salmon producers, the PO would also need to bring Grieg Seafood Shetland back onboard. Formerly known as Hjaltland, they were expelled from the industry in 2014 for importing smolts from Norway without putting them into quarantine. Although the practice was legally sound, it contravened the SSPO’s own code of good practice.

In the past Grieg have been ambivalent about returning to the SSPO, but the new chief suggests that there are indications that relations are thawing – a process she is keen to speed up.

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“We’ve also speaking to Grieg up in Shetland, I’d personally like the SSPO to be as representative as it can possible be and I’ll be speaking to both companies early doors to ensure they can meet the requirements of the SSPO and, if they can, I’ll welcome them in,” she reflected.

Rob Fletcher

Rob Fletcher

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