"A rollercoaster!" Eleanor Lawrie, Ellie, tells WeAreAquaculture to sum up what her first shift in her new position has been like. "I don't think it's ever going to be easy stepping up into the next role, I was finally starting to find my footing towards the end of the shift so I'm looking forward to going into the next shift with a bit more of an idea of how it's going to go," she adds. Mowi Scotland's first female skipper is already at the helm of Ailsa Craig, the workboat where last year she also became the company's first female deckhand.
"I've been dreaming of getting on a workboat for what feels like a lifetime now (9 months) and I still don't quite believe it," she wrote last year in a LinkedIn post celebrating her new position. "All it takes is some hard work, determination and a bit of pestering," she concluded with an emoji crying with laughter.
Shortly after, when we at WeAreAquaculture interviewed her for our TalentView series, we closed the interview by saying that "hopefully, in a couple of years, we'll be interviewing the first skipper on a workboat at Mowi Scotland." Less than a year later this is a reality.
"Ellie joins our team of experienced skippers, all based around the West Coast of Scotland, doing a great job, out in all weather conditions," announced Mowi Scotland on its LinkedIn page this week. "I've loved the Ailsa Craig since my first week at Mowi, so it still feels like a dream that I'm the skipper now. It just goes to show if you want something enough and put in the work to get there, dreams can come true," said Eleanor Lawrie in a statement accompanying the announcement.
She acknowledges that, seen from a distance, it's not surprising that everything seems "a bit of a blur." However, the hard work and determination she talked about last year have always been there. "It's actually closer to 2 years since I started covering as a deckhand on various workboats and I've spent the last couple of months covering as skipper whilst the skipper job was open, so that prepared me as much as it could," Ellie tells WeAreAquaculture.
"I don't think you're ever fully prepared for it though. There are always going to be surprises and teething problems but I've worked under some fantastic skippers with years of experience, who I've learnt a lot from and I was lucky because they wanted to train me up to be a skipper rather than just have a good deckhand."
As mentioned, although she has changed positions, Eleanor Lawrie has not changed the workboat, she is still working aboard the Ailsa Craig. As she was the deckhand, until that position is taken over, she is still multi-tasking and, she admits, has not yet noticed much of a difference although "there definitely is a lot more responsibility." Also, she says amused that, once her former position is filled, she will miss "how therapeutic a good deck wash can be!"
In her interview with us last year, Ellie encouraged other women to do like her and get on board workboats. Has there been an increase in women? we ask her now. "I haven't seen an increase but Rome wasn't built in a day," she replies, ever enthusiastic.
"I'm hoping to do some outreach activities this year because it's mainly about getting the word out! There's no reason we shouldn't have more women in the industry, and from speaking to other women when I'm out and about there are definitely others that are keen but don't know how to go about it."
"I would tell any women who are interested to go for it! If they need any help or advice, there are plenty of women like myself in the industry happy to help them navigate their way through such a male dominated industry," she continued. "Organisations like WiSA (Women in Scottish Aquaculture) are there and dedicated to these things, so never feel like you're having to go it alone."
Present in 20 countries, Mowi ASA is one of the largest seafood companies in the world, and the world's largest producer of Atlantic salmon with harvest volumes of 464 000 tonnes in 2022, approximately 20% of the global market share. The company aims to achieve a gender balance of 50/50 among employees by 2025. For its part, Mowi Scotland raises its salmon in Scottish Highland waters and employs 1,500 staff, with 48 farms that produce over 68,000 tonnes of salmon annually. Its products are primarily sold within the United Kingdom, where it is the largest supplier of farm-raised salmon.