Scotland’s largest salmon producer is teaming up with one of the country’s leading marine science research institutions to help Scottish aquaculture thrive in a competitive global industry.
Marine Harvest Scotland [Ltd] has pledged two scholarships to the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in AquaCulture, Environment and Society [EMJMD ACES] run by the Scottish Association for Marine Science [SAMS UHI] and in collaboration with the universities of Crete and Nantes. The course is part of the European Union’s prestigious Erasmus Mundus programme and gives students the unique opportunity to travel throughout Europe as they learn about sustainable aquaculture.
The two-year sponsorship, open to graduates from EU member states, will fund one student per year and includes participation fees and an opportunity to work with Marine Harvest for a period of six months in order to complete their dissertations.
Dr Gareth Butterfield, Technical Services Manager at Marine Harvest Scotland, announced the scholarships yesterday, 5th April 2016, saying: ‘Research and education is vital in an industry that is only 45 years old. For our business to thrive, and the industry to grow overall, we have to bring in young people who increasingly require specialist skills and training.
‘In terms of research, it’s critical we keep pushing on in this area if Scotland is to become the industry leader in research, innovation and technical development, providing science based knowledge and better solutions in a growing sector.
‘To date, the UK has lagged behind Norway in providing an availability of aquaculture-educated personnel, but that balance is changing.’
The EMJMD ACES course, which began in 2015, awards a Joint Masters Degree through the universities of the Highlands and Islands, Crete and Nantes. It focuses on fin-fish and shellfish biology, interactions between farming activities and the environment and involves internationally renowned researchers in the field.
It provides students with an insight to the industry, whilst stressing the importance of socioeconomics; Atlantic salmon has grown to be Scotland’s biggest food export and provides the country with a financial income of more than £500 million per year.
Dr Liz Cook, the EMJMD ACES programme leader at SAMS UHI, says: ‘One of the main themes behind this course is global food security, so we are delighted to receive the support of a world-leading food producer such as Marine Harvest Scotland.
‘Thorough research into increasing the sustainability of aquaculture requires the expertise of commercial partners such as Marine Harvest Scotland. They are a crucial element of our work to produce the aquaculture industry leaders of the future.’
Dr Butterfield says: ‘Courses like EMJMD ACES are an important vector to bridge the gap between education, research and development, and applied industry techniques and knowledge.
‘Aquaculture-based academia within the UK is growing and beginning to receive the recognition it deserves. The research undertaken at SAMS, Crete and Nantes is industry-relevant and students educated there are provided an opportunity to learn and understand theories and techniques that can easily be applied and incorporated in to production strategies. These skills can bring a significant sustainable growth to Europe’s salmon farming industry.
‘We very much look forward to working more closely with the team at SAMS and all the EMJMD ACES students of 2016 and onwards.’
The Marine Harvest Scotland scholarship is open to EU citizens. Applications must be received by 5th June 2016. Application forms for the scholarship and details of the documents applicants will need to provide, are available by email to Helen Bury, EMJMD ACES education administrator: ACES@sams.ac.uk
The other half of the game
It is to be hoped that this other half of the aquaculture game is the second half – and that the collaboration by major salmon production companies – many, like Marine Harvest itself, with controversial performance records in terms of environmental responsibility – with serious and respected research establishments like SAMS is a move forwards a happier final goal line.
Commercial fish farming contributes a strong economic performance for Scotland but is an industry with a conflicted relationship with much of the country.
Its contributions to Scotland’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product] and its export figures are countered by the facts that:
- Much of the industry is foreign owned, with profits exported as fast as product.
- The environmental impact performance of much of the industry falls below acceptable standards and is inadequately policed by government and government agencies. This uncomfortable performance includes serious benthic pollution from faecal deposits and surplus fishfeed from sea cages; the impact of sea lice on caged salmon and on juvenile wild salmon on migration from home rivers; the impact on local seal populations with salmon farmers permitted, instead of installing predator nets, simply to shoot seals – and now permitted even to shoot pregnant and lactating seals.
- The continuing mystery of the disposal of volumes of dead salmon following outbreaks of disease. Endemic gill and other diseases afflict the densely packed salmon populations in the cages, with very high salmon mortalities – and a very unclear position on which authority carries responsibility for regulating the disposal of what are known as ‘salmon morts’. How, where, in what conditions, with what possible environmental consequences and what required safeguards such massive disposals take place remains a guarded mystery. This refers to tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dead salmon.
- Local authority planners are less than questioning on consents for new and expanded salmon farms.
It has to be hoped that as various needs bring the major commercial salmon farming companies closer to objective academic research, that the second half of Scotland’s game of viral aquaculture expansion evolves in the direction of greater environmental responsibility and accountability.
Note: The photographs above show: a Marine Harvest Scotland salmon farm on Loch Duich near Skye; above, Dr Liz Cook of SAMS UHI who is EMJMD ACES course leader, with Gareth Butterfield, Technical Services Manager at Marine Harvest Scotland [Ltd] in launching the new scholarship.