Scottish Sea Farms Managing Director Jim Gallagher has stepped down from the board of the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC). He has cited the need to focus on his company as it prepares to take on Grieg Seafood’s Shetland business.

Gallagher was one of the founding members of the SAIC board when it was set up in 2014, and has served two terms.

SAIC invests in collaborative research projects in the areas of fish health and welfare, nutrition, shellfish production, and increasing the sector’s capacity. It also helps grow the aquaculture sector’s talent pool by supporting MSc and PhD places, internships and training programmes.

Scottish Sea Farms (SSF) was announced as the preferred buyer for Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK Limited – the company that owns Grieg Seafoods’ fish farming operations in Shetland – back in June of this year. The Competition and Markets Authority is due to announce its “phase one” decision on the acquisition on or by 15 December.

SSF is also planning key strategic investments totalling more than £40m in 2022, which it says are aimed at maximising farmed fish health and minimising impact on the environment.

Speaking of his decision to step down from the board, Gallagher said: “It has been a tremendous honour to be a part of the SAIC board for so many years. I have believed strongly in the concept since day one – and I haven’t been disappointed.

“Scottish aquaculture is without doubt better connected, more collaborative and operating increasingly sustainably thanks to the ongoing work of SAIC and its Independent Scientific Panel to bring together the country’s producers and academics to address some of the sector’s most pressing challenges and opportunities.

“However, the opportunities immediately ahead of Scottish Sea Farms have the potential to be equally transformative in terms of the company’s own growth and development, and I am keen to give those my undivided focus and attention.”

SAIC Chairperson David Gregory said: “Jim has been a member of the SAIC board from its formative stages and a continuous advocate for SAIC’s work. He has been ambitious on the Innovation Centre’s behalf and we are very grateful for his tremendous hard work over the last decade. He has played a key role in helping us to achieve our mission of increasing the economic impact and reducing the environmental footprint of the sector.”

SAIC Chief Executive Officer Heather Jones added: “Jim’s energy, absolute focus and leadership in Scottish aquaculture have been invaluable to SAIC. Since SAIC’s creation, he has helped shape our priority innovation areas, ensuring our research has closely reflected the sector’s needs. We also acknowledge with thanks the way that Scottish Sea Farms has engaged with SAIC by co-funding projects, sending staff on SAIC innovation programmes, and co-sponsoring the Women in Scottish Aquaculture initiative.”

SSF will continue to be involved in the work of SAIC and has to date collaborated in nine co-funded projects, from sea lice control to gill health issues, contributing over £2.2M of the combined £6.8M project costs.

Gallagher added: “SAIC has an instrumental role to play in helping the sector to grow in the most sustainable way and Scottish Sea Farms fully intends to remain a part of that… however, for the Innovation Centre concept to really deliver on its potential, and for Scotland to fully capitalise, SAIC also needs the ongoing support of the Scottish Government: from cutting back on the layers of bureaucracy and decision-making that can hamper innovation, to committing to increased funding over the longer-term.

“The contribution aquaculture can make to a greener, healthier and more prosperous Scotland is huge, if given the right conditions to deliver.”

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