Interview with Susan Farquharson

Susan is the Executive Director for the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, where she started in 2015 after holding an Executive position at the Canadian Rivers Institute, at UNB.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture? 
Having worked in many areas of resource management over my 25+ year career, I understand the value and importance of ocean farming.  We cannot continue to harvest the wild to feed an ever-growing global population.  

Briefly describe your aquaculture career 
I accepted the position of Executive Director at the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association in 2015.  Before that, I was the Executive Director at the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick. In between holding these positions, I completed my MA in Environmental Management. 

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational? 
So many women inspire me! The list is long but includes many of my current and past team at ACFFA as well as Nell Halse (former VP Communications at Cooke Aquaculture), Ruth Salmon (former Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance), and of course Heather Jones (CEO of Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre).  

Women in regulatory positions play such an important role and I appreciate those relationships where we come together to effectively grow this important industry. It’s rewarding to see more women and young women taking on positions in areas of management, engineering, areas of innovation outside of the typical roles of processing and hatchery. 

In terms of organizations, I continue to be awed by the innovative partnership called Fundy Salmon Recovery that is using a revolutionary approach to save wild Atlantic salmon. The ACFFA coordinates this remarkable collaboration that brings together government, industry and academia to help conserve wild salmon for generations to come. 

How important has networking been to your career? 
Networking is critical to learning and my capacity to do my job.  Understanding and learning from others saves time, money and energy overall. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply modify an approach for your regional needs and application? 

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? 
Unfortunately, yes I have.  It’s still very much a male dominated industry both in senior roles and pay.  

The best approaches to address this are not new: flexible work hours that support a family-first work environment, pay transparency and recognition of the importance and value of diversity to production, sustainability and evolution of the industry. 

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date? 
The ACFFA earned the 2023 Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Industry Award for our demonstrated innovation and leadership in efforts to improve the well-being of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and surrounding communities. 

I’m incredibly proud of the work our association does to coordinate, communicate, and support the continuing innovation that has resulted in our region’s salmon farming sector being recognized as global leaders in sustainable and environmentally responsible finfish production. 

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career? 
It’s a wonderful industry with so many opportunities. It’s up to you how far you want to go and what part of the sector you want to work in – don’t limit yourself!  

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade? 
Climate change. It is the biggest factor affecting everyone and it will continue to affect our food systems whether due to warming oceans or lack of arable land and fresh water.  

Susan holds an MA in Environment and Management and has trained nationally and abroad.  She achieved her Masters Certification in Project Management and is a PMP certified project manager. She is a graduate of the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Programme (Moscow), completing (2) two-year participatory action research on collaborative resource management, and received a certificate of completion from the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program Environmental Leadership at UC-Berkeley, School of Natural Resource Management. 

During her career, she has led several projects for various organizations including Canadian Coast Guard, the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, municipal governments in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and has 25 years of experience managing not for profits.  

Susan has dedicated time to her community by volunteering on both a local service district advisory committee and as a past director of a regional service commission. She currently serves as Deputy Mayor of Fundy Shores municipality in New Brunswick. Her work and volunteer activities have been acknowledged with awards and recognition - most notably the New Brunswick Environmental Leadership Award, two Gulf of Maine Visionary Awards and as the 2nd honorary member of the Canadian Rivers Institute.  

Read more interviews from Women in Scottish aquaculture and beyond