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Salmon Farming Continues to Boost Scotland's Rural Economies

6 January 2016, at 12:00am

SCOTLAND - Many local people in rural locations in the Scottish Highlands and Islands are continuing to reap the benefits of salmon farming, enjoying the opportunities and prosperity it brings.

“Technological advancements are transforming the salmon farming industry in Scotland” industry spokesperson, Jamie Smith, stated at a recent EU summit highlighting the economic benefits of aquaculture.

Currently, 2257 people are employed directly by the industry. Now workers from other sectors can be seen relocating with their families to join the industry and the communities where salmon are farmed, helping rural life thrive.

Skill levels are rising as the industry includes specialists in biology, fish health, modelling, engineering, IT and supply chain logistics, with many employees undertaking extensive in-house training or a degree level qualification.

With an additional 6500 jobs in the supply chain, salmon farming is a crucial industry with unlimited employment opportunities. This is especially important for young people who wish to remain in their rural locations and would like the opportunity to embark on a career with excellent professional prospects.

LANTRA Scotland has also confirmed 30 Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture certificates have been issued by the sector skills council from June to September this year, bringing the total issued from April to 57.

Local lad, Stuart Simon, is a Senior Marine Operative at Sgian Dubh site near Toward, Dunoon. He is the first employee in The Scottish Salmon Company to complete his MA level three. Beginning his career as a Marine Operative in 2007, Stuart progressed to Senior Marine Operative in 2012 prior to beginning the Modern Apprenticeship in July 2013, which took around one year to complete.

Mr Simon said: “The Modern Apprenticeship has without doubt opened doors for me. I have grown more confident and have developed a greater understanding of the aquaculture industry and in particular the way The Scottish Salmon Company operates. I have been able to put into practice the things I have learned. It’s a massive benefit to understand not just what we do but why we do it.

“Completing the course has made me realise just how much I enjoy learning so it has pushed me to find further education. From a professional point of view, I aim to push myself as far as possible and hopefully be able to take on a more senior role and more responsibilities in the future.”

He did so well that his tutors at Inverness College nominated him for the LANTRA Land based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Award, for which he was runner-up earlier this year.

18 year old, Ross MacDonald left Lochaber High School at 16 to begin a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ level II with Marine Harvest, supported through Inverness College distance learning. Reflecting on his recent experience, Ross explained:

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the MA programme as I was fortunate to receive a full overview of salmon production as part of my training. What I enjoyed the most was learning the importance of maintaining excellent fish health and welfare standards by undertaking regular fish health checks and measuring welfare standards by sampling and testing environmental conditions.

“I’m delighted to report that since my MA has been completed, I have secured a full time position with Marine Harvest that will focus on fish health and welfare. I will be based around the Fort William area which means I can live and work in the area where I grew up.”

30 year old Hayley Eccles relocated to Lochcarron nine years ago. Following many years in retail, Hayley was keen to find a new career and applied for a position as a freshwater technician for Scottish Sea Farms at Couldoran Hatchery, on the West Coast of the Highlands, in April 2013. By the following June, Hayley had signed up to a two year Modern Apprenticeship that would allow her to formalise her on-the-job training, while providing appropriate foundations to build a career.

Reflecting on her experience so far as a Modern Apprentice with Scottish Sea Farms, Hayley said:
“Joining the industry with no prior knowledge has not been without its challenges, but I’ve always felt that I had the full support of my colleagues and tutor.

“It’s been particularly fascinating to learn how the environment can impact on the development of fish, and to understand how small alterations to the hatchery environment can make a significant difference to salmon growth.”

“I’m a real animal lover and enjoy learning how to care for the fish. I particularly love the hands on work that I do, such as grading the fish and taking environmental samples, and it’s been reassuring to know the company has fish health and welfare at its heart through its commitment to the stringent welfare standards laid out by RSPCA Freedom Food.

“I’m really embracing the opportunities offered by Scottish Sea Farms and hope to stay with the company for a number of years.”

On a global scale, Scotland is the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the EU, and third largest producer in the world. It is Scotland’s largest food export with farm gate value reaching £700m in 2014.

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