In­dus­try Pi­o­neer Gle­n­arm’s John Rus­sell

o an­not rb the enth siasm even af­ter near y years in fish farm­ing

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY JENNY HJUL

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

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