AQT Spotlight on Ian Sewell – From the Caribbean to Canada
I am happy you all are enjoying these AQT Spotlights as much as I like working on them. The purpose of these is to expose the different things that are being done around the world in our industry. But mainly to be able to put a face behind all of it. I recently got the opportunity to speak with Ian Sewell. He is a 27-year-old Jamaican native. Ian is currently working as an Aquatic Biology Consultant. His story is as exciting as the others I have shared with you in the past. Keep reading if you want to learn more about Ian’s Canada journey.
You may have seen this section in my other articles. And is because I always address this. Everyone has different reasons when joining this industry. Ian’s story happened by serendipity. Like I told you he is from Jamaica. There he completed his Associate degree in Veterinary Sciences. From a young age, Ian was curious and eager to learn all about animal biology and becoming a veterinarian. He then applied to schools outside of Jamaica to study Veterinary Medicine. Ian got accepted but was then hit with a very harsh reality. Educational fees for international Vet students were higher than he had planned.
“I started pre-vet with the intentions of moving into Vet. But it was much more than I could afford. So, I started experimenting with different fields in Animal Sciences, such as Biology and Aquaculture. I took a course called Introduction to Aquaculture. There I realized I could learn fish anatomy and physiology. Understand their biological process. Assess fish health. I realized it was pretty closed to what I wanted to do.”
He then continued taking more courses and ended up changing his field from veterinary medicine to Aquaculture. Fish health and biology are where his passions lie. After he finished his bachelor’s, he went straight to his master’s of Science in agriculture and research. The program had a focus on shellfish genetics and breeding. In the future, he wants to be deeply involved in marine and aquatic biology.
His Cermaq Experience?
As a student, Ian started working with Cermaq for 6 months during one of his summers. And after he graduated from his master’s he came back, where he has been for four years. But the reason he made the decision t go back and apply for a full-time job at Cermaq was the people he worked with. During his summer job back in 2014, he created good relations with the team and leaders. Everyone was always willing to teach him and help him. They provided a nice work environment for Ian. And when he graduated, he felt like returning to Cermaq wasn’t even a question, he was interested in coming back.
“I’d say is the experience, the culture, the people. It was all amazing. At times it didn’t even feel like work. I just knew I had to go back. The quality of everyone was excellent. Cermaq offered room to grow and move up the company. And I know I want to grow and expand and hone my skills and knowledge in the Aquaculture field. They allow you to grow as far as your ambitions go. And I am very ambitious. I always like to take new responsibilities and hone my skills. I became a safety ambassador for my farm site. you get to go as far as you go within the organization.”
From Shellfish to … Salmon?
I was curious. So, I literally asked Ian this. He explained. There was a pathogenic disease in oysters, and people that had their livelihood depends on this species could have difficulty crumbling. In his master’s project, he had to find defense mechanisms within the oysters and bring them to light. He had to perform a lot of oyster culturing, spawning, hatchery, growth, activities. And understanding the entire lifecycle of oysters so he could control it.
“It’s similar for Salmons at Cermaq. Where we were able to control the entire lifecycle of the salmon. From egg to smolt, to post-smolt, to harvest. Using my knowledge base from my masters I get to apply it and understand things differently. Perform changes and manipulate environments to offer optimal growth conditions. There are a lot of synergies between aquatic species. So, once you have general knowledge you can apply and understand different parameters.
About Challenges – Ian in Canada
“I would say the industry is currently facing a long-term challenge. Oceans are warming and this is a huge problem. So, cold-water species like the Atlantic Salmon are facing lower than optimal living conditions. The Aquaculture industry needs to adapt to warmer waters and change our practices to grow fish optimally and efficiently.”
For dealing with his personal challenges in the Aquaculture industry if he had the ability to time travel, he told he would say to himself that he will figure everything out eventually and just follow his passion. “What led me here was sticking to what I liked and exploring within it. I always wanted to find something that wouldn’t feel much like work. Something I enjoyed. I would always tell myself to follow my passion because I would always know what I really wanted to do.”
How Would you Define your Aquaculture Experience?
“Eye-opening” Ian says the media presents something that is different from what is really happening. So, being able to visit and work at aquaculture sites is eye-opening. As you have to opportunity to see how things have modernized and how practices have become more sustainable and environmentally conscious.
He says also sustainable and resilient. “Aquaculture is one of the most – if not the most- regulated industry. We have adapted to produce food for a growing population in sustainable ways. Learning from our mistakes to get better results.”
The Importance of Small Decisions
And for this one, I will quote Ian’s exact words.
“One interesting thing about my story is the decision-making. When I finished my associate, my mom told me that I can apply for any of these schools that I want to apply for. I applied to three different schools. I applied for veterinary school in the USA, Canada (Dalhousie), and Trinidad. And I ended up getting accepted for all three. I chose Canada because I’ve been going to the USA as a kid growing up every year. I’m used to the Caribbean, so I didn’t choose Canada. My choice for coming to Canada was solely based on the fact that I’ve never been here before. So, it’s kind of crazy how things worked out. That each decision you make, no matter how small it seems, will lead you down a path that can literally change your life. I’m pretty happy with the decisions I made. And yeah, I think it led me down a pretty good path that I am pretty content with.”