Fish Veterinarian with Scottish Seafarms 

A Career, A Way of Life, A Future

Dario Mascolo from Scottish Sea Farms (left)

What is your job and what does it involve?

I am a fish veterinarian, so I look after the welfare standards of salmon throughout the lifecycle right through to humane slaughter. This includes a project to develop electro stunning within our processing facilities. I also look after the welfare standards of cleaner fish: both wrasse (farmed and wild) and lumpsuckers (farmed).

What got you into salmon farming?

I was interested in aquatic animals of all kinds from an early age. Over the years this interest developed into a real love of fish pathology and physiology. The fact that salmon farming is still a relatively young sector makes it particularly engaging compared to other farmed and domestic species. There’s so much that’s still unknown, so much still to learn, and yet advances are being made all the time. It’s exciting to play a part in that.

What excites you most about the sector?

Salmon farming is a very modern, innovative sector – it’s keenly focused on animal welfare and as such it’s investing on a huge scale in new skills, technology and improved practices. There’s also a real respect for the environment. We grow our salmon in conditions that replicate their natural conditions as much as possible and understand that in order to grow a healthy fish you also need a healthy environment. The two go hand in hand.

Why do you enjoy what you do?

I get to be outdoors in contact with lots of different people doing different jobs, meaning there’s a constant sharing of experiences. Salmon farming is a young sector after all and there’s lots to be learned with regards to the welfare of three different species of fish, so this social interaction ensures we’re always sharing insights and learning in order to do things better and better.

What advice would you give to other young people considering a career in the sector?

Like most sectors, the hardest part can be getting your first break. My advice would be that, should you be offered a role that isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for but that is close to it, then still consider it. One, it gets you into the network. Two, skill is recognised so that first role could be key in helping you progress to where you want to be.

How does technology/digital transformation improve your work?

Data capture, and the technology that enables it, is vital to my work. While it’s great to get the subjective experiences of the people on the farms who work with the fish every day, you also need to look at the data which is objective – you need both to complete the diagnostic picture. Thanks to data capture technologies, I can spot any patterns, helping me remotely anticipate, prevent and react to any issues.

Was salmon farming an opportunity for you to return to, or stay, in your local community?

No, after completing a veterinary degree in my home country of Italy, I moved to Scotland to undertake a Masters degree at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture and pursue my passion for fish health. The more familiar I became with salmon farming and the people working within it, the more certain I became that I wanted to stay in Scotland and contribute to the sector.

How does your company and community work together?

There’s a real exchange of economic and social benefits, and I think those living locally to our farms recognise that. They recognise the importance of salmon farming to rural environments in terms of creating jobs, investing in innovation and social support in terms of local causes, and make you feel really welcome when they spot the company logo on your pick-up truck or clothing, for example.