Industry awards mark ‘best of the best’

THE Scottish aquaculture sector’s prestigious awards, run until recently by the Crown Estate, will be relaunched next month with several new categories.
Now under the auspices of Benchmark’s 5m Publishing arm, the restyled awards will be officially launched at the inaugural Aquaculture UK conference, to be held at the University of Stirling from June 14-15.
Nominations will open following the conference and the winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, in May next year, during the biennial Aviemore exhibition.
‘Aquaculture in the UK is widely acknowledged as having among the highest standards in the world,’ said Rob Fletcher, editor of the Fish Site, part of the Benchmark group.
‘These awards recognise the best of the best in the industry and celebrate the achievements of a sector that is vitally important both to the national economy and to numerous economically fragile rural communities.
‘They highlight the many good things happening in UK aquaculture and give due recognition to those making an exceptional contribution to the industry, now and in the future.’
This year three new categories – Shellfish Farm Manager of the Year, Rising Star Award and Peoples’ Choice Award – are set to be added to the established categories.
‘The first of these highlights the importance of the UK shellfish sector, which is often overshadowed by the success of the salmon industry, but which has a vital role to fill in sustainable protein production,’ said Fletcher, who will also be part of the judging panel.
‘Shellfish farmers are really raising their game at the moment and a number of impressive innovations – based both on cutting edge scientific research and practical development of new equipment – are emerging in the sector, so we felt like there has never been a better time to recognise those successfully embracing and applying such developments.’
The Rising Star Award – which will be open to UK based under-35s – is designed to celebrate the next generation of enthusiastic, highly qualified and competent youngsters moving up through the industry’s ranks.
‘Many of the pioneers of the industry are approaching retirement and, not long ago, many of these people voiced their concerns that it was hard to attract dynamic young people to aquaculture,’ said Fletcher.
‘However, it is now abundantly clear that a new wave of highly skilled, highly trained and highly talented people are involved in UK aquaculture – both those that have come from academic backgrounds and those that have learned from hard won experience on the farms – and we want to highlight their achievements.’
The final additional category – the People’s Choice Award – will allow those engaged in UK aquaculture to have their say, and delegates at Aviemore will be given the chance to vote for one company or individual that has made the shortlist of any of the other awards categories.
‘Both the conference and the exhibition are set up to generate industry engagement and we thought that having a category open to a wider vote would be an ideal way of galvanising this aim,’ said Fletcher.
The chance to enter the awards or nominate others for one of the 12 categories will be launched at the Aquaculture UK Conference.
Entries will be open until the end of 2017 and a shortlist of four individuals or companies for each category will then be drawn up by a panel of judges.
In the months that follow, the judges will visit each of those on the shortlist, and the winners of each category will be announced at the Gala Dinner that takes place during the Aquaculture UK Exhibition in Aviemore in May 2018.
Picture: Scottish Sea Farms’s Jim Gallagher picks up the Best Aquaculture Company award at the 2015 ceremony in Edinburgh