A trainee at SSF's Shapinsay site in Orkney. Photo: SSF

Orkney anniversary study shows salmon farmer’s value

A study commissioned by Scottish Sea Farms has provided a new measure of the importance of salmon farming to Orkney.

Published Last updated

The study by independent consultants Imani Development provides a detailed case study of the benefits that SSF has delivered to the remote communities of the archipelago during the company’s first 10 years of farming there.

These include:

  • Growing its local workforce from nine to 44 full-time jobs, a figure that will increase to 50 when the company’s eighth farm goes live in 2019
  • Offering a higher average salary (£37,215) than that for Scotland (£27,404) or Orkney (£26,260)
  • Paying an annual salary bill of £1.6m in 2017/18, and generating vital additional disposable income for onward spend with local shops, businesses and services
  • Now spending an average of £1.2m annually across 74 local businesses and supporting as many as 250 indirect jobs across the supply chain.

In addition, the study shows that SSF has invested significantly in local skills and training, with 15 Orkney employees currently enrolled on Modern Apprenticeships and 508 training days undertaken by the team in 2017/8 – 118 of which were delivered via Orkney College UHI.

Highly-skilled jobs

Speaking at the launch of the study, Impact Summary 2018: Measuring 10 years of farming Orkney waters, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Salmon farming plays a vital role in many remote rural communities, like the Orkney Islands, where local economies are bolstered by the provision of well paid, highly-skilled jobs, as well as the creation of a highly valuable and sought-after product.

“During this, the Year of Young People, it’s particularly encouraging to see Scottish Sea Farms investing in the next generation of salmon farmers, as well as leading the way on good practice for the industry.”  

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “To those living on mainland Scotland, 50 jobs might not seem like a huge deal. However, for remote communities such as Eday, Rousay and Sanday that might only have a population of 150, each new job can make the difference between a local staying on the island or leaving, or new people being attracted onto the islands.”

Richard Darbyshire: "Growing healthy, premium quality fish relies on them being reared in healthy habitats".

Healthy habitats

One of those ‘newcomers’ is Richard Darbyshire, SSF’s production manager for Orkney for the last 10 years. Originally from Bolton in Lancashire, a key part of his role is to ensure that the economic and social gains being made aren’t at the expense of the local environment.

He said: “We’re farmers first and foremost, and we know that growing healthy, premium quality fish relies on them being reared in healthy habitats. Equally, we live in the same communities as we farm, therefore it’s incredibly important to us on a personal level that we look after our local environments.”

SSF initiatives include investing £1.9m in rigid netting to keep predators out of salmon cages, resulting in no seals being shot on Orkney in over years.

The study also shows that SSF’s Orkney farms now grow £38.1m worth of salmon that’s sold worldwide and has an estimated value of £26.5m gross value added to Scotland’s economy.

A copy of the Imani study can be found here. SSF have also produced a video showcasing their work, featuring a number of Orkney staff, which can be seen below.