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West coast salmon farmer swallowed up by global giant

Wester Ross Fisheries, trading as Wester Ross Salmon, is now owned by Mowi.
Wester Ross Fisheries, trading as Wester Ross Salmon, is now owned by Mowi.

Scotland’s oldest independent salmon producer has been gobbled up by the world’s largest fish farmer.

Wester Ross Fisheries (WRF), based in Ardmair, near Ullapool, and trading as Wester Ross Salmon, is now owned by global industry giant Mowi.

Details of the deal have only just emerged at Companies House.

Mowi has acquired the business from majority shareholder and managing director Gilpin Bradley.

Mr Gilpin – a former chairman of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation – now Salmon Scotland – and Mowi were both contacted for comment but failed to respond.

Wester Ross Fisheries boss Gilpin Bradley and 2015 Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain during the filming of a TV programme that aired in 2019.

Founded in 1977 by the MD’s father, Robin Bradley and Alan Mann, WRF is thought to be the largest private sector employer in the Ullapool area.

The last set of accounts lodged by the firm at Companies House show it employed 63 people, on average, in 2020 and the business turned over £16.15 million that year.

In 2018 WRF was named among the UK’s 100 fastest-growing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in terms of exports.

The Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100 report ranked the business as the second fastest-growing SME in Scotland, behind Dundee-based games developer Outplay Entertainment.

It was also 58th in the UK, thanks to international sales growth of 56% over the past two years, to £8.9m.

The recognition came about a year after the firm swooped to buy the Ardessie Salmon operation on Little Loch Broom, near Dundonnell.

WRF now operates three seawater sites in Loch Kannaird, Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom. It also has a processing unit and sales and administration office in Dingwall.

The company takes great pride in its track record of not using antibiotics, hormones, medicines or genetically modified ingredients in the rearing of its salmon. “Our farms are medicine free,” its website says.

WRF’s 57-year-old managing director teamed up with Colin Milne, Hugh Richards and David Robinson – all directors of the business at the time – in 2006 to acquire the firm.

The buyout was backed with a £400,000 joint package of assistance from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Inverness and East Highland, and HIE Skye and Wester Ross.

WRF had been heading for a possible break-up following a decision by its previous owners – Robin Bradley, Mr Mann and Camfield Finance – to give it up.

Its latest owner, Mowi, formerly Marine Harvest, is headquartered in Norway and employs around 12,000 people in operations spanning 25 countries. The Oslo-listed company turned over £3.6 billion last year.

Mowi’s Scottish business boasts a 1,500-strong workforce and 48 fish farms producing more than 68,000 tonnes of salmon annually.

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