Interview with Daniel Carcajona, winner of the WiSA ‘Ally of the year’ award, 2024

Daniel, from Madrid, left home over 20 years ago to start his studies in marine science, and ever since has lived elsewhere within Spain and Europe due to studies or work. He slowly moved north until he arrived in Scotland over 10 years ago, settling in Oban, together with his partner, dog and chickens. Daniel has always loved the outdoors, so this area is great for hiking, foraging, fishing, or working outside gardening and attending his ever-growing cultivated area at home.

What does winning the WiSA Award 2024 mean to you? 
Winning this WiSA Award is an unexpected honour that symbolises recognition for supporting women, not only uplifting those already here but also inspiring others to join this remarkable sector.  

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture?  
I love the sea and I love farming. And I believe aquaculture plays, and will further play, a big part in ensuring food security, independence and health for future generations through innovation, responsible economic activities and embracing sustainable practices while in turn, safeguarding our oceans.  

Likewise, as a “young” sector, it offers incredible development opportunities, committed to a brighter, more sustainable future for our environment, communities and businesses, not only in the UK, but worldwide, driving job creation and boosting local economies at so many levels. 

Briefly describe your aquaculture career
I started my career with a degree in Marine Sciences with specialisation in Living Resources from the University of Vigo (Spain) and an MSc in Aquaculture from the University of Coruna (Spain), after which I worked in IMTA research projects and at a commercial seaweed farm. 

After this period, I enrolled in an Erasmus Mundus MSc in Marine Environment and Resources, taking me to the University of the Basque Country (Spain), University of Bordeaux (France), University of Liege (Belgium) and finally to the Ardtoe Marine Research Facility in Scotland. 

Since then, I have worked in various Scottish-based aquaculture companies. First with Benchmark Holdings Plc. as Site Stocks Biologist with a focus on cleaner fish, feed and fish behaviour trials as well as developing some seaweed research. Then moved to Scottish Sea Farms Ltd. as Biological Control Manager for Mainland Region where I continued working with cleaner fish, but also expanded to lead on other aspects of fish health and welfare, and sea lice management tools, from medicinal to physical interventions passing through other preventive measures, as well as sea lice and fish welfare in-house training. 

I briefly worked at Otter Ferry Seafish, again with cleaner fish, and enjoyed a few months of hard, but very interesting work with a wonderful team. 

After this period, I joined the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, enabling collaboration between the aquaculture sector and research entities by closely and regularly liaising with academics, public funding bodies and the wider sector to engage all parties in collaborative research projects. 

During this time, I joined the Scottish Seaweed Industry Association (SSIA) board of directors, comprised of volunteers within the sector with extensive knowledge and expertise; committed to ensuring the safe and sustainable farming and harvesting of seaweed. 

I have recently moved to SAMS Enterprise as Business Development Manager, leading and managing the commercial business development portfolio, helping clients to understand and mitigate the risks involved in industry interaction with the marine environment utilising the research excellence of our scientists to enable productive oceans and safeguarding the marine environment. 

Over the years I have found time to combine these roles with my work as Retained Firefighter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and currently as a Search and Rescue Officer for HM Coastguard. 

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational?  
This may sound artificial, but the reality is that I have gained something from all the organisations I have worked in. I always try to make the most of every opportunity, interaction, challenge and experience. 

There are indeed a few individuals that have made a big difference and have left a positive and indelible mark on me, because of their brilliant minds, kindness and ethics, but who they are is something, if I may, I will keep between them and me. 

How important has networking been to your career?  
It is the single most important thing. 

During your career, have you noticed inequalities in the sector, be it in policies or culture? If yes, what actions do you think would best address those issues?  
Never in policies or culture, but sometimes I have noticed unconscious and subtle comments or behaviours that, nowadays would not be considered the most appropriate.  

As a society and as sector we are in constant evolution, it is, hence, a collective effort, mostly through discussion and visualisation, but it is also an individual effort through self-awareness and empathy, truly aiming to understand the people around us. 

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?  
I do not have any specific single proudest achievement. I just like working in the sector, in the Blue Economy, and support its development the best I can.  

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career?  
Be open minded, but also hold on to your principles, and make the most of the opportunities to learn and meet people. 

It is a dynamic sector with plenty of opportunities in numerous roles, from farming to IT and processing, not only in Scotland but nationwide and worldwide, thinking also of seaweed and shellfish, IMTA, microalgae, freshwater, etc. 

Be bold and not afraid, we are nice people. 

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade?  
Resilience, adaptation and diversification. 

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