Interview with Laura Widmer

Originally from Argentina, Laura has been living in the UK for almost 4 years and moved to Scotland to work as a biologist assistant for Bakkafrost Scotland (previously The Scottish Salmon Company). She has a background in conservation and animal welfare.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture? 

It was a new challenge, learning something that I knew very little about. An opportunity to overcoming my own prejudice whilst creating an opinion about a controversial and highly targeted industry. 

Briefly describe your aquaculture career 

I am very new in the industry. I started as a biologist assistant in September 2021 with the Scottish Salmon Company. Just like with any other new job I went through a learning curve, eager for new challenges, gradually learning the tricks and becoming involved with some areas of interest within biology. Through exposure to different areas, I discovered a passion for cleaner fish; their welfare, life cycle and ways to improve the process they spend at sea with the salmon.  

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational? 

My colleagues, in particular Isla Monaghan, our previous biologist in the south region. She inspired me to try something new and apply for a role with The Scottish Salmon Company, and she was always keen to have discussions about animal welfare and environmental impacts of the industry in Scotland. Everyone in the biology team at Bakkafrost Scotland has helped me from the start and taught me a lot. 

How important has networking been to your career? 

It has been key! From sharing ideas and learning if someone is already researching questions that I am asking myself, to expanding the net and getting to know people who might be in the same situation that I was at the start, or who are highly experienced in the sector and can give me advice on how to move forward. 

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? 

I have witnessed inequalities in various sectors. They are not exclusive to aquaculture but unfortunately to a common norm of men prioritising certain “hard” industries and laboured jobs over women. I believe that WiSA is making progress and targeting key issues that need to be addressed and, focusing on policies that require updating to this day and age. To continue pushing for equality and flexible working while keeping in sight the importance of work life balance. 

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?  

I don’t have an achievement to call my own at the moment, but teamwork has been essential and hoping to achieve many more goals in the future. 

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career? 

I would tell them to go for it, to give it a try. There are so many options for career paths and different roles, opportunities for growth. The line is quite varied, whether you prefer a desk-based role or to be involved with production you can put your full potential to work and enjoy your job. 

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade? 

In my opinion, some key areas should be to continue working on ways to minimise environmental impact and learning from other countries leading in aquaculture. Staying in contact with researchers that can provide innovative ideas and in-depth information to collaborate, preventing challenges in the industry. 

Lack of personnel can be a challenge due to the farms’ remote locations and not enough housing availability. Moreover, a standardised flexible work schedule to adapt to the different needs of prospective candidates, will make this thriving industry more inclusive and hopefully, more appealing to new members.  

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