Rising Star | Sarah Smee

Year of Young People

2018 is the Year of Young People in Scotland. Our sector is proud to employ people of all ages and backgrounds, and particularly pleased to be able to offer rewarding careers to people starting off in life after school, college and university. Salmon farming is one of the key sectors helping to support the rural economy in the Highlands and Islands and offers good career opportunities for young people to stay in the region. It is as true now, in this Year of Young People, as it has ever been.

SSPO has been speaking to a number of younger employees, or ‘rising stars’ as we like to think of them, to find out their stories. In this article, Sarah from Cooke Aquaculture shares her experiences of working in Scotland’s aquaculture industry.

Sarah Smee, Cooke Aquaculture

What is your job and what does it involve?

Fish Health Assistant. I visit both freshwater and seawater sites within Cooke Aquaculture to monitor and assess fish health. This involves observing fish behaviour and providing on site diagnostic services, collecting samples for in-house and external analysis, and performing vaccination audits.

What got you into salmon farming?

After completing an MSc in Marine Biology, I wanted a career where I could work in a hands-on environment as well as progress the skills and knowledge I had already gained during my education. I started out as a Freshwater Technician with Cooke Aquaculture in 2016 where I worked for two years at one of our hatcheries. This developed my skills and knowledge of salmon aquaculture and when the role of Fish Health Assistant became available, this experience was invaluable.

What excites you most about the sector?

Aquaculture is still a very new industry to be a part of and I look forward to seeing the advances in technology we can utilise to improve our success as a company.

Why do you enjoy what you do?

I enjoy the variety as every day I travel to sites across mainland Scotland as well as Orkney and Shetland where I get to work alongside lots of different people in beautiful scenery. I also enjoy being able to see the progression of our fish and assist in their welfare from hatch at freshwater sites all the way up to harvesting in the sea.

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

Gain as much work experience as possible. Cooke Aquaculture has supported young people in carrying out work experience at both their freshwater and seawater sites.

How does technology/digital transformation improve your work?

The company as a whole uses a database for the collection of information. This allows the Fish Health team to rapidly access relevant information. My role involves a lot of solo working and so the use of smart phones allows the Fish Health team to discuss and share information and photographs with each other allowing for faster diagnosis.

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

I’m originally from the North East of England, so there’s no salmon farming there!

How does your company and community work together?

We operate in a number of rural locations and believe that the families and communities of these areas are the backbone of our success. Cooke regularly participates in and sponsors events, local clubs and organisations within these areas.