The Rising Stars of Scottish Salmon

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, Angus from Wester Ross Salmon shares his experiences of working in Scotland’s aquaculture industry.

Angus, Wester Ross Salmon

Q: What is your job?

A: Seawater assistant. The job itself is varied with many different aspects from hand-feeding the salmon to harvesting and swim-throughs. It is also the time when I get involved in our wrasse project which is, of course, very exciting.

Q: What got you into salmon farming?

A: It wasn’t my first choice but living in a rural area makes it harder to find a full-time job with career opportunities such as salmon farming. The proximity of the company to Ullapool definitely played a significant role in my decision. My grandfather, Guy Sykes, used to work for Wester Ross Fisheries in the 80s and I’m glad I could continue the tradition as a third-generation salmon farmer.

Q: What excites you most about the sector?

A: It’s an exciting and growing industry, with many opportunities for local people living in rural areas. The growing sustainability effort brings many educational opportunities for staff and their professional development.

Q: Why do you enjoy what you do?

A: My job allows me to stay in the community I grew up in; our office is nature. I mostly enjoy hand-feeding salmon and swim-throughs, the outdoors nature of the job is a big plus.

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

A: I would say it’s important to be ready for the conditions of the job – working outside in changing weather conditions can be a challenge for many, even experienced farmers. The manual aspect of work is another thing to consider as well as being able to be a part of a team; it’s not a job for single players.

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

A: Although our way of salmon farming is very much hands-on, we do use technology on certain occasions, like VAKI, a handy biomass counter. It gives us a weight estimate of the salmon judged by the length of each salmon. We also use simple and quick air lift pump systems during the harvest time to minimise stress. All of our farms have acoustic devices to protect stocks.

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

A: I considered it to be just a job to start with but now, seeing the bigger picture, it actually allows me to think more about the future. Wester Ross is expanding – it has two new sites thanks to funds from the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), so that means more opportunities for its staff; that’s fantastic!

Q: How does your company and community work together?

A: A few things to mention – building the outdoor classroom for the Ullapool Primary School, repairing a roof of the local leisure centre. We recently took part in the annual Ullapool Regatta providing a support boat for the day. It’s hard not to be involved in such a close-knit community.