Salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms hosted more visitors than ever to its farms this year, as part of the industry’s drive to increase the public’s awareness and understanding.
Between January and September, the company hosted 270 visitors across the farming estate, including the freshwater hatchery in Barcaldine, marine farms and processing facilities.
In many instances, individuals and organisations approached Scottish Sea Farms directly. Others were introduced to the company by sector organisation Salmon Scotland.
Combined, it has resulted in 33 scheduled visits, spanning a diverse range of backgrounds, from customers, regulators, politicians, and environmental groups, to students, suppliers, press and members of the public.
Opening up the workings of a fish farm to the public is seen as one way to counter what the sector sees as misinformation from anti-farming activists and hostile media.
Michael Keenan, Farm Manager for Scottish Sea Farms’ Scallastle site, said: “The beauty of people coming out to the farm is that they get to see what we do and speak to the team in person. No question is off limits. In fact, we encourage open, honest, constructive discussion.
“With most of the team living locally, it’s also an opportunity to convey to visitors from more central areas just how important salmon farming is to Scotland’s remote communities.”
Daniel Merryfield, Programme Lead for MSc Sustainable Aquaculture at Plymouth University, said: “Visiting Scottish Sea Farms has been a great experience for our students. The staff that host us have shown a genuine desire to practise and promote ethical fish farming – minimising the environmental footprint and maintaining welfare.”
Rollie Wesen, Associate Professor of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in the US, who visited the company’s Holms Geo farm in Shetland in July, agreed: “We so enjoyed visiting the farm and hearing all about the surprisingly complex process of raising salmon for food. You all are really doing extraordinary things both for your community and all the salmon lovers out there.”
Scottish Sea Farms expects visitor numbers to grow further next year, with tours being extended even further afield to include more farms in the Northern Isles.