Well plaid, Gilpin: Wester Ross MD Gilpin Bradley, left, with Keith Bertram (sales), Gillian Osborne (marketing and communication), and Morgan MacKay (fish farmer), at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona earlier this year. Marketing initiatives include the company's own tartan, with a hint of salmon pink, which all four are wearing.

Gilpin Bradley to retire after 33 years in charge of Wester Ross Salmon

Managing director steps down 15 months after selling to Mowi

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Gilpin Bradley, managing director of Wester Ross Salmon and a former chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (now Salmon Scotland), is to retire.

Bradley, who has been at the helm of the high-end salmon farmer for 33 years, plans to focus on health challenges he is facing, and supporting his two teenage daughters.

His decision comes 15 months after Wester Ross Salmon, which was the oldest independent salmon producer in Scotland, was sold to Norwegian company Mowi, the world’s biggest Atlantic salmon farmer. Wester Ross Salmon was co-founded by Bradley’s father Robin in 1977.

Bradley has continued as Wester Ross MD through the ownership transition and has also worked as business development director for Mowi’s Farming Scotland segment.

As a high-profile character with an undoubted gift of the gab, Bradley has used his charm to promote both Wester Ross Salmon and the Scottish salmon industry.

Gilpin Bradley receiving his Ambassador of the Year award from host Nicky Marr at the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards in Inverness last year.

He was named 2022 Ambassador of the Year at the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards, having previously been given the same award in 2013.

Wester Ross Salmon has also featured in several TV programmes, including  Nadiya’s Time To Eat on BBC2 and BBC Alba’s Trusadh series on the same day in 2019.

Following the sale to Mowi, Bradley founded the Wester Ross Salmon Education Trust to help pupils of Ullapool High School achieve their full career potential. The Trust’s legacy is a demonstration of his commitment to invest in the next generation of students who wish to pursue a sustainable lifestyle and a rewarding career in aquaculture, environmental studies, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects.

Cookery show presenter Nadiya Hussein holds a Wester Ross salmon as Gilpin Bradley looks on.

Ben Hadfield, chief operating officer at Mowi Scotland, said: “Gilpin is such a respected and admired leader, with many farmers having learned their trade from Gilpin directly.

“His experience spans every part of the business’s value chain and is a key reason for the growth and success of the Wester Ross Salmon brand. He is a charming artisan, which is supported by the grit, resilience and know-how needed to meet all the challenges of farming salmon in Wester Ross for over three decades. I wish Gilpin the best for his very well-deserved retirement.”

Bradley, who will remain available to Mowi and the team at Wester Ross, said: “I am very pleased to have been part of Scottish salmon farming – one of the greatest private sector economic success stories in the Highlands and Islands in the last 50 years. Wester Ross has survived many challenging cycles by having a strong commitment from my dedicated team, some of whom are now third generation. Our focus on all natural artisan farming practices has created an enviable brand, and our unique approach is greatly appreciated by our long-standing loyal customers.”

'A little fish in a shark pond'

Wester Ross produces approximately 2,000 tonnes of salmon annually and has built its brand around its artisan practices such as hand feeding, a high staff-to-fish ratio, and the use of locally caught ballan wrasse to control sea lice.

Speaking to an audience at the world’s biggest fish farming trade show, Aqua Nor, in Norway in 2017, Bradley explained how a sustainable business can be used for differentiation and in marketing.

“I spend my life being a little fish in a shark-infested pond,” he said. “We have been risk-averse and that has allowed us to keep going.”

That differentiation has been maintained to an extent under Mowi’s ownership, although Wester Ross has recently applied for planning permission to site a 120-tonne-capacity feed barge at its Corry farm in Loch Broom.