Industry Pioneer Glenarm’s John Russell
o annot rb the enth siasm even after near y years in fish farming
John Russell (more commonly known as Basil) coulT be lying on a Greek beach right now if the lure of salmon haT not kept him in colTer climes. Instead, he is still immersed in the industry that gave him his first ob at 16, commuting from his organic salmon business in Northern IrelanT to his Sco sh Highlands home every week, and showing no signs of fish farming fatigue.
The o er of a top position in Greece came towarTs the enT of his 30-year career at Marine Harvest and though tempted, he was lured to Glenarm Bay to rescue the only salmon farming business in the Irish Sea.
That was eight years ago anT the skills that saw him rise rapiTly in ScotlanT have workeT their magic on the Glenarm organic branT, establishing it as a premium proTuct in some of the most lucrative overseas markets.
His current role takes him around the world and into contact with royalty – Prince Charles is a fan of Glenarm but he insists he is a fish famer at heart anT there is no mystery behinT his success.
I was ust a hard worker and very keen to see the fish do well,’ he said of his early days at Marine Harvest.
Growing up in Fort William, he haT been expecteT to become an electrical engineer, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. That didn’t interest him, but the cages he saw at Lochailort on trips as a young boy with his father TiT.
He contacted the company, then owned by Unilever, anT was one of four youngsters hireT in 1977 as farm assistants.
‘Within a few years the four boys were involveT in opening up anT Teveloping many of the Marine Harvest farms in the late 70s and 80s,’ said John.
‘Everyone got involveT, got stuck in, but on occasions you haT the responsibility of single-hanTeTly se ng up a farm, from laying the moorings, building the pens, pu ng on the nets and receiving the new smolts.
A er opening up and managing a farm in Loch Eil, I became farm manager of Loch Leven in the early 80s. I then went on to set up a farm in Loch Sunart and another farm in Lochailort, and became an area manager soon a er with the responsibility of manging the South area (seawater) of Marine Harvest.
Later on I took on the responsibility of managing the orth area and then became the production manager for both freshwater anT seawater for the whole of Marine Harvest.’
The bosses at the time recognised a safe pair of hanTs, it seems, anT John was clearly their go to guy for new farms, but he is moTest.
That was one of the obs I suppose that we all did and en oyed doing. These were the times when we were starting up commercial salmon farming in ScotlanT anT were all prouT anT exciteT to be part of that.’
He stayed in sea farm management for a long time and ultimately was in charge of freshwater, engineering, research, health ust about every side of the business. He said his part in helping to move the inTustry forwarT was very much Town to trial anT error anT, more importantly, teamwork.
It was a very young industry it still is in relative terms and in the 80s it went through a huge expansion. Because we were Toing quite well, the accountants thought we could do even better by pu ng more fish to sea things soon went out of control as we didn’t have the wherewithal to manage the operations properly with the increase in numbers.
‘I was area manager then and maybe in charge of between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of produc
‘It was a huge breakthrough for the industry, and one of the biggest sea changes in the industry to
you cannot curb the enthusiasm, seeing a nice