ONE of the stalwarts of our industry has died, aged 84. Johnnie Stansfeld was involved in the advent of both rainbow trout, salmon and mussel farming from the earliest stages of our industries. He was a visionary who understood that the old ways of wild salmon were outmoded and unlikely to continue. He had seen the heady days of wild salmon netting and angling in the late 60s and understood that this would not continue.
He was a man of quiet determination and fierce intelligence. Having been steeped in salmon fishing from an early age, when he spoke about it he was well worth listening to.
In 1959, he followed his father into the salmon fishing company, Joseph Johnston and Sons (JJS), which was responsible for developing the fisheries on the North Esk. JJS had a reputation for researching the population dynamics of the Atlantic salmon, making the North Esk the most researched river possibly in the world and for many years the most stable fishery in the UK.
In 1961, JJS, which had a reputation for innovation and river improvement, became interested in hatcheries as a fisheries management tool. One was constructed at Brechin.
In the years ahead, Johnnie oversaw the company’s move from wild salmon netting on the east coast to salmon farming on the west coast, at Scourie in Sutherland. The operation lives on as Loch Duart, formed by former employees (me included) who bought the fish farm in 1999.
It was Johnnie who drove the formation, with his fellow pioneering farmers, of the Scottish Association of Fish Farmers in 1971.
Joseph Johnston and Sons has left our industry but it was one of the first pioneers in salmon farming, to a large degree driven by Johnnie’s thinking and vision. This is not to say that he avoided difficult issues. During his career he was involved in the scientific work and campaign to control the grey seal numbers, and after that the conflict with the drift netters in the North Sea.
On both occasions he was closely involved in the research and implementation, resulting in law, which significantly changed the playing field.
He published a paper on the interaction between farmed and wild salmon in the marketplace in 1986 and wrote many other documents and books.
He received his MBE for work with the young people of Montrose, continuing his encouragement of people, something that he had exhibited during his working life.
The salmon industry will be the lesser for the loss of one who bridged the divide between wild and farmed salmon interests so elegantly, resourcefully and with a very clear view of the realities.
Joseph Johnston and Sons was the only company globally that had two feet planted squarely in two very different and often conflicted camps. Its ability to navigate these difficult days in the 90s were largely down to Johnnie.
He may have been an enormous force in the creation and early development of our industry but his greatest pride was his house, Dunninald, and its environs, and his family, to whom our thoughts go out. He leaves behind his wife Rosalinde, his three sons and six grandchildren.
I could write about the fact that he always went to sea on each of his visits, even though his hip was hurting him, or that he told me that he believed you should speak with and say goodbye to every member of staff on a group of
pens. This has become something I have tried to do ever since he mentioned it to me.
I consider myself lucky to have have known and worked with him.
John (Johnnie) Stansfeld MBE DL, born in London, January 15, 1935, died in Montrose, March 17, 2019.
“His was the only company that had two feet planted camps” squarely in two very different and often conflicted
Above: Johnnie Stansfeld Left: The article is from 1971