Rising Star | Matthew Devine

Year of Young People.

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.

Matthew Devine | Loch Duart

Q. What is your job and what does it involve?

A. Fish Biologist. I look after the health and welfare of the salmon we have on all our sites across the North West Highlands. I also travel to the Western Isles to our other sites at least once a month to check the health status of those fish. Together with the fish welfare team, I go out daily to examine and collect data on a select number of fish from each site to check their health and condition. We then collate and input this information into an ongoing data set. This can be compared with previous data to determine any changes in health of the salmon on a site level as well as for specific populations within these sites. Then we present this data to the appropriate bodies and to the staff to keep them informed about the health of their fish.

Q. What got you into salmon farming?

A. My interest in the industry started when I was studying Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University. After graduating, I volunteered at a marine research station in the south of Scotland. I worked there for a few months and through the many conversations about the industry with the other volunteers and researchers, achieving more knowledge about the scale and opportunities within the sector, my interest in salmon farming developed further.
Then I started looking for jobs in the salmon farming industry and found a job as a Farm Operative with Loch Duart, and I applied!

Q. What excites you most about the sector?

A. Many things! The topic of salmon farming is a very current focus of much scientific research, mainly looking at how to make the sector more sustainable. As salmon farming is a rapidly growing industry worldwide, I am excited about new ideas coming along for continuing this growth in the future.

Q. Why do you enjoy what you do?

A. I have always loved marine environments and grew up fishing anytime that I could. Being able to be out at sea every day and in addition, observing fish up close, makes my job extremely enjoyable.
I like knowing that every day will be different. I am at a different location each day and there is always new information to learn. There are also a lot of opportunities to attend meetings and conferences where I get to meet new people.

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

A. Go in with an open mind as there are many different opportunities. Get some knowledge of the industry, have an interest and work hard. As with any industry, there are improvements that can be made. There will always be room for young people with fresh ideas and innovations to improve the sustainability, efficiency and profitability of the industry.

Q. How does technology/digital transformation improve your work?

A. Having the resources available to sample the fish when needed and the technology to detect early signs of illness is very helpful. I’m particularly interested in swabbing gills for the detection of potentially harmful pathogens. Regular gill swabs even on healthy populations improves our work.
The advancement in freshwater treatments for gill disease is a very interesting new area. Having a treatment which is less harmful to the fish and the environment is very exciting. The results from a freshwater treatment are much greater than other treatments being used in the past.

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

A. I grew up in Northern Ireland and although there are some opportunities available there, from my time spent in Scotland after university, I knew that I wanted to stay. This opportunity brought me to a new place! I had never been to the Highlands before starting to work for Loch Duart. I find myself very lucky to be able to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world.

Q. How does your company and community work together?

A. For being in such a sparsely populated area, Loch Duart employs many people from the local community as well as bringing employees from around the world into the local area. Along with transporting a lot of salmon worldwide, Loch Duart also sell salmon to local hotels and restaurants which helps local tourism. We also organise beach cleans which helps us maintain a close relationship with the public.