Maclean’s Nose salmon farm is pretty much as remote as you can get in the United Kingdom, perched on Scotland’s western coast. Look to the west and across the sea is the Hebrides, and beyond that nothing but thousands of miles of ocean until the east coast of Canada.
Reaching Ardnamurchan, where the farm is sited, will take a long drive from the nearest city but at least it won’t be boring; no motorways here, just winding roads through some of the UK’s most rugged countryside. It’s well worth the journey for the scenery alone: verdant green fields dotted with picturesque white houses sandwiched between brooding mist-shrouded hills and restless sea.
No wonder Rosie Curtis, the Farm Manager, is so passionate about her job and her community. Managing a salmon farm is a busy job, but it’s far from the only responsibility that Rosie has taken on: she is, among other roles, the Watch Commander for the local fire service and a deputy officer for the coast guard – a particularly important service on a remote peninsula like Ardnamurchan. As if that wasn’t enough, Rosie and her family also manage their croft – a small farm – home to their highland cattle and sheep herd. Thankfully they at least have some help from their trusty sheep dog, Mars, for that last one!
Rosie isn’t the only community-minded member of the Maclean’s Nose farm team. Two of her colleagues are fellow firefighters, and two are members of the coast guard team.
In turn, they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the full support of their employers.
This is no small commitment; there is no predicting when an incident might occur requiring the coast guard or fire service, and when that happens Rosie and her colleagues will have to leave immediately. Rosie is grateful to Mowi for allowing her and others to give back to their community in this way, and it’s clear that her community spirit has rubbed off on the rest of her team.
But Rosie is just as passionate about her day job, salmon farming. She takes a lot of time to ensure her fish are healthy and their welfare is taken care of, while her trusted team keeps a close watch on the fish, monitoring things like how much they are fed to ensure excess food doesn’t accumulate where it could have negative environmental impacts.
Rosie grew up in Kilchoan, west Ardnamurchan, before leaving the area. She returned in 1997 when her dad became ill, which is when she decided to stay in the area and take over the family croft which was left to her by her father. But many do not return, and the area’s already small population of 247 is also ageing. Rosie is hopeful that fish farming is a way to improve the outlook for small rural communities.
“Having fish farming in remote rural areas, hopefully in the future that will encourage people back into our communities and keep communities alive.”
Community involvement is an important component of responsible aquaculture. When a fish farm becomes ASC certified, it is not just about adhering to the highest environmental standards, farms must be socially responsible and that includes being good neighbours. Local communities are even invited to have their say on potential ASC certification of nearby farms.
At ASC we are for unlocking the full potential of fish farming, which goes beyond the already important need to feed a growing global population and includes many social and economic benefits. But of course, these benefits will count for little if the farming is not done responsibly and causes negative environmental or social impacts. Rosie is clear on what direction she wants to see the industry head:
For Rosie, the strict requirements of ASC made it all the more worthwhile to work towards.
“It’s a tough certificate to get, so I will display it with pride. For someone who already has so much to be proud about, that’s saying something!”