Marine Harvest: 1997-present
Rosie Curtis joined Marine Harvest as a technician at Glenmore, Loch Sunart, in 1997. ‘I did that for about four years’, she explains, ‘and then I applied for the Assistant Manager’s job, and got it. I did that for about eight years. ‘When the sites at Glenmore and Laga Bay closed, we moved to Camus Glas, and when the Manager’s job came up, I didn’t apply for it’, she continues. ‘When it came up again, in 2010, I told myself that I could do it and applied for the job, and got it.
This made Curtis Marine Harvest’s first female Farm Manager, a real benchmark for the company. ‘Initially, I think I was conscious of being a female – it’s not like I could phone up any other female managers with any problems. And at the start I was a bit daunted by the management side of things, but I soon found my feet and haven’t looked back.’
Last year Curtis completed her first full cycle at Camus Glas, with phenomenal success. ‘It was an incredible year’, she recalls. ‘We achieved our biggest tonnage ever: 3,283 tonnes and an average weight of 5.5kg. RGI was 103, so the growth was amazing. We achieved an FCR of 1.07 – in fact, all of the sites on Loch Sunart had similar results – the loch as a whole achieved an FCR of 1.07, which is fantastic.’
Another huge success story at Camus Glas is the introduction of wrasse as a control for sea lice. ‘Since we introduced wrasse there has been a virtual elimination of sea lice across all three sites on Loch Sunart’, explains Curtis. ‘In the last cycle we only had one treatment, whereas previously there would be dozens of treatments per cycle. It’s an incredible story and, because of that and the quality of the salmon we are producing, everyone is upbeat, there is a lot of confidence and everyone is wearing their Marine Harvest jackets with pride.’
Finding a solution to the seal problem at Camus Glas was another major breakthrough for Curtis and her team. ‘Two cycles ago we had a real issue of seals, which were wiping our pens out’, she says. ‘So we invested in an Airmar seal deterrent system, so the seals are still there but now they don’t go anywhere near the pens.’
Having proved herself at Camus Glas, Curtis has been given a new challenge at a brand new Marine Harvest site at McLean’s Nose, near
her home village, Kilchoan. As a local fire team watch manager, deputy station officer in the local coastguard and a member of the community council, it is a place that is close to her heart. ‘I remember after one of my staff appraisals saying to my boss that if McLean’s Nose ever came up, and if he thought I was good enough, that I wanted first dibs’, she recalls. ‘What a fantastic place to have a job, looking back into your own community – especially when the weather is good.’
At two and a half thousand tonnes, the new site at McLean’s Nose will be one of Marine Harvest’s biggest to date. ‘We’re in the process of setting it up’, explains Curtis. ‘We’ll be putting in around 700,000 fish in mid-July. I’ve brought two of my guys from Laga Bay, and we’ve taken on another three. Two of them are bringing their families back to Kilchoan, after having to leave the area to find work. I’m also employing a local lad, so he’s able to stay in the village, which is great. We had fifty-four applications for the jobs, which just shows how many people want to come this far west and work for Marine Harvest, it’s unbelievable – changed days.’
The new site brings with it a number of new challenges for Curtis. One of these is the change from square pens to circles. ‘At Camus Glas we had 24m x 24m squares; at McLean’s Nose there will be twelve 120m x 120m circles, each holding around 60-70,000 fish’, she explains. ‘The squares are joined together in two groups on a pontoon; you have to move to each circle by boat – we’ll be using a 200-tonne Seacat. We will also be stocking each pen with wrasse; there’s no reason why we can’t replicate the success we had in Loch Sunart.’
With a new site, and brand new equipment (‘we can’t moan anymore about wanting new kit’, she laughs), Curtis knows that everyone in the company will be watching their progress with interest. ‘As with any new site, there will be challenges’, she continues. ‘But I am really excited by the challenge, and everyone is raring to go – we have the expertise and equipment to produce some really great salmon.’
The last couple of years have seen Marine Harvest as a whole achieve some incredible results, and for Curtis personally it has been equally successful. This success culminated in Curtis being awarded Farm Manager of the Year at this year’s Scottish Marine Aquaculture Awards, an accolade she thoroughly deserved.
Left: Rosie Curtis and John Williamson of Skretting with her Scottish Marine Aquaculture Farm Manager of the Year 2015 Award
Above: Camus Glas, Loch Sunart Left: Rosie Curtis at the start of the farming cycle