SAIC chief Heather Jones, left, and Rowena Hoare, senior researcher at the IoA, hold the WiSA logo as women working in Scottish aquaculture celebrate the launch of the organisation outside the Scottish Parliament. Photo: WiSA.

Bolder and WiSA: bid to net more women for aquaculture

A new group called Women in Aquaculture Scotland (WiSA) will be launched today – International Women’s Day – by people from across industry, academia and the public sector.

Published Last updated

The group, which will be industry-led and co-chaired by Charlotte Maddocks, health manager at Mowi, and Noelia Rodriguez, operations manager for Scottish Sea Farms’ new Barcaldine hatchery, will seek to encourage more women into all levels of aquaculture and support them throughout their careers.

The campaign to form WiSA has been led by Heather Jones, chief executive of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), who will sit on its leadership group.

Senior researchers

WiSA will also include Rowena Hoare and Sophie Fridman, both senior research fellows of the Institute of Aquaculture at Stirling University, as well as Robin MacLean, policy manager at Marine Scotland. Mary Fraser, head of skills and talent at SAIC will act as group secretary.

Noelia Rodriguez, operations manager at the SSF hatchery at Barcaldine, will co-chair the group. Click on photo to enlarge. Photo: BioMar.

Jones said: “The creation of WiSA is an incredibly exciting and important step for aquaculture in Scotland. Our aim is to raise awareness of the opportunities available to women in the industry, encourage more female participation at all levels in the sector, and provide support to those entering or already working within aquaculture. The industry is full of potential; however, if it isn’t attracting the best people from across the talent pool, it’s unlikely to fulfil that.”

Overwhelming support

The formation of WiSA follows a survey conducted by SAIC which revealed overwhelming support for such a group with almost three quarters (73%) of respondents, both male and female, noting their interest in joining. Two thirds of respondents agreed that it should raise awareness of women working in UK aquaculture.

The research was carried out by SAIC in response to a report commissioned by Highland and Islands Enterprise, on behalf of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group, which revealed that 87% of shellfish industry employees are male.

Over the coming year, the WiSA group will host a series of ‘round Scotland’s coastline’ networking events to be held at the major salmon, trout and shellfish producing parts of Scotland with special guest speakers and local engagement around peer-to-peer support. The group will also launch a dedicated WiSA Facebook networking group and an online platform hosted on SAIC’s website.

Roseanna Cunningham: "We are fortunate to have so many talented women working in our farmed fish sector." Photo: Scottish Government.

Wealth of expertise

The Scottish Government has backed the group.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I am delighted to welcome the formation of Women in Scottish Aquaculture on International Women’s Day. 

“We are fortunate to have so many talented women working in our farmed fish sector, bringing a wealth of expertise, knowledge and skills to businesses all over Scotland and particularly in remote rural areas.

“I hope that WiSA will now help to encourage more young women with science, technology, engineering and maths related degrees and qualifications to take up careers in aquaculture businesses.”

The launch comes two days after salmon farmer Grieg Seafood climbed into the top 10 of a gender equality index of Norwegian companies.

Grieg is eighth on the 2019 SHE Index, compiled by accounting and consulting firm EY and the Norwegian gender equality firm SHE. The company was 12th last year.

Talent regardless of gender

Grieg Seafood chief executive Andreas Kvame said there was a long way to go before the industry and Grieg reached gender equality, but said the company was working systematically to get women into the company and into management positions.

“Over the next years, the aquaculture industry will develop a great number of new solutions aimed at reducing our environmental footprint and improving fish welfare. We need the most talented people, regardless of gender, age and other backgrounds,” Kvame said.

“Diversity is not only the right thing to do. It definitely also serves our own interests.”

For more information on the WiSA group, visit or follow the conversation on social media using #DiversityMakesUsWiSA from 11am today.