Scotland’s salmon farmers grow fish for dinner plates here and abroad. Salmon is bought by retailers, supermarkets and ultimately by the consumer. You and me. From Shetland in the north, through Orkney, across to the Western Isles and all the way along Scotland’s beautiful west coast people harvest the seas.
If truth is the first casualty of war then it’s undoubtedly the case that impartiality takes a fair few body blows too - and not just during war.
Just consider what has happened throughout this pandemic.
As everyone who farms salmon knows, its impossible to get a feel for what really goes on out at sea unless you’ve been there and seen it.
This is doubly true for those who report on our sector.
One of the most important tools that we have in trying to secure balanced coverage is to get journalists out to the farms to see for themselves.
In any normal year, this sort of annual roundup would be fairly routine: there would be successes and challenges to discuss, innovations and new markets to champion and performance to assess.
But not this year. This past year has been so unusual, so unexpected and so challenging that we will be talking about it and analysing the fallout for many decades to come.
It has tested our member companies in so many ways: from the sudden imposition to new work patterns to the virtual collapse of previously solid foreign markets,
It didn’t take them long.
The tail to this crisis is going to be long and painful. There will be second waves and third waves, localised hotspots and regional lockdowns in various parts of the world not to mention the millions of job losses and mountainous government debts.
And yet, and yet – a sense is starting to build within the Scottish salmon sector that something better, stronger and more resilient could emerge from the wreckage.
Flying into Kirkwall’s tiny airport you would be hard pressed to imagine anywhere else in the UK where a population of only 26,000, spread across 16 or so inhabited islands, could deliver such an incredible breadth of fine quality food and drink.
The islands’ produce ranges from renowned whiskies, gins, cheeses and meats to, chocolate and seafood, including farmed salmon that is among the best in the world.
There is an honesty box at the end of the pontoon set up for yachties on the Isle of Muck, off Scotland’s west coast.
Sailors stopping off for the night can moor up safely then pay a modest sum for the privilege.
The proceeds from that honesty box go to the primary school just up the hill, funding off-island trips for the children.
There are mooring buoys off the Isle of Rum too. Both the pontoon and the moorings were provided free by Mowi, the salmon farm company which has a farms off the shores of both islands.
My former colleagues in Grub Street were ready with the quips and the gags when I announced I was leaving newspapers after nearly 30 years to join the salmon industry.
“From poacher to poacher,” was how one wag with a culinary bent described my change of career. “Keep up with the splashes (but not the front-page variety),” was another while several commented that they had always thought my copy was a bit fishy.