Interview with Ellie Lawrie

Ellie has a BSc (Hons) in Marine Science from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). She took part in the Erasmus+ scheme and studied Fisheries and Aquaculture at Van Hall Larenstein, a university of applied sciences in the Netherlands. Ellie is the first female deckhand for MOWI Scotland and a finalist for the Rising Star award at the Aquaculture Awards 2023.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture?
I’ve always wanted to work on the water, I studied Marine Science at SAMS and I did a semester in the Netherlands under the Erasmus+ scheme, studying a major in fisheries and aquaculture. Whilst studying that major I realised how important an industry it is to reduce the fishing pressures on wild stock. I had originally planned to stay in research and academia but I ended up working in processing when I came out of university and found I’ve much preferred being in industry.

Briefly describe your aquaculture career
I started off in processing as Quality Monitor with Scottish Sea Farms, then I worked on sites for a couple of years. When my site had no fish I was sent away to cover as a deckhand on workboats and after that I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I kept covering on different boats within Mowi until I finally got a permanent job as a deckhand on the Ailsa Craig.

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational?
I’ve met so many people who are inspirational for so many reasons, but there are a few that have stood out to me. My skippers on the Ailsa Craig: Ben, who took me on when I knew barely anything about boats/engines and all the non-fishfarming side of things and basically taught me from scratch; and John Prosser, who I have only had the priviledge of working with for a few months. As well as knowing more about fish farming than anyone else I’ve met, he is incredibly encouraging and working under him for that short amount of time has done wonders for my confidence, bringing me out of my shell and making me realise I am a lot more ready for the Skipper’s chair than I thought I was.

Simon Hutton, another Farm Tech at Mowi when we worked together, was so patient, he really enjoyed teaching people and basically taught me almost everything I know about fish farming.

Heidi Holland, my supervisor at Scottish Sea Farms, showed me how to operate well within such a male dominated environment. She was well respected by the guys in the factory but also very fair and a great boss, as well as still being a huge support to this day.

How important has networking been to your career?
Aquaculture and boating are quite small worlds where everybody knows everyone, so it can be helpful to have a good network in place, particularly if you are looking to change things up a bit and change your role or move departments. Networking can keep you updated with what’s going on in the industry globally as well as the different departments and contracted aspects of fish farming.

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?
Being a finalist for the Rising Star award at the Aquaculture Awards 2023. Just being nominated for the award was a huge honour and I still can’t believe I made it to the finals.

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career?
Just jump in and work hard. Everything is really new and confusing in the beginning because it’s such a unique industry. It will come to you eventually and everyone else has been through it themselves at some point. Take the opportunities that arise, if someone needs to be sent to the middle of nowhere then go! Fish farming happens in such beautiful places that many people never get to see, so even if you’re just doing the same job 4 hours away it’s worth it, and you can pick up good tips and tricks from the people you meet along the way. Aquaculture exists all over the world so the opportunities really can be endless.

Take opportunities to do training courses that will advance your career, and keep your current training up to date to maintain and update your knowledge and skill set. If everything is new and bewildering, the SVQ in Aquaculture run by UHI is really helpful as a way to make you ask questions and fully understand what is happening at every stage rather than just going through the motions of the operations without knowing too much about why.


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