Women in aquaculture: Marie-Clare Russell
Marie-Clare Russell, who has been involved in fish health since the mid-80s, is relishing the challenge of developing new ways to tackle sea lice in her current role as managing director of FAI Aquaculture.
Briefly describe your aquaculture career
I have had two distinct shifts in the world of aquaculture – initially with Marine Harvest back in the mid-to-late ’80s and then, more recently, with FAI Aquaculture. I started life as a livestock vet in a mixed practice in the Highlands, which was my dream job as it was as close to a James Herriot type of practice as you could get. Being a small female in a mainly male-dominated profession, I fully expected that if a large male vet applied for a job with large animals along with me he would get it. I was so lucky to get the chance and loved every minute.
What inspired you to move into aquaculture from being a livestock vet?
I met my husband [John], who at that time was a farm manager for Marine Harvest, and although I tried to continue practising as a livestock vet, the logistics of where we lived made it nearly impossible – and at that point Marine Harvest were advertising for their first vet. They had previously been using the practice I was in for prescriptions and wanted to bring this in-house. I applied and got the job. In 2014 I started with Benchmark working in a consultancy role for three months, but the challenge and aims of Benchmark kept me there and in 2016 I took over as managing director of FAI Aquaculture.
How does a day in the life of a fish vet vary from a day in a large animal practice?
I very much enjoyed the one-to-one interaction with my livestock patients, something I missed as a fish vet. However, the principles of caring for health, welfare and husbandry are the same and there are great challenges to be overcome, even now, particularly within salmon farming. I love a challenge!
When I started with Marine Harvest the fish health team knew far more than me. As much as I was employed to dispense prescription-only medicines, they soon realised that I wanted to see everything and be involved in it all. The industry has changed now – the company vet is at the centre of healthcare and involved in health decisions at all levels – but that was a new concept back when I started. I loved learning something new. I survived the days before the furunculosis vaccine and loved being out on the cages.
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