Rosie Curtis

Marine Harvest: 1997-present

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

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

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