With a degree in Veterinary Medicine & Surgery gained at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and an MSc in Aquatic Veterinary Studies undertaken at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, Soutar was one of the first vets to join the farmed salmon sector.

Fuelled by a long-held belief that aquaculture, if done responsibly, has a key part to play in improving food security, he has been an instrumental figure in championing farmed fish welfare.

At company and sector level this has included:

Widening focus from ‘fish health’ to ‘fish health and welfare’ and the many benefits that brings
• Advocating a ‘prevention over cure’ approach, simultaneously enhancing fish welfare and minimising the use of veterinary medicines
• Supporting the One Health call for ‘low to zero’ antibiotic use to reduce antimicrobial resistance
• Increasing understanding of the vital role fish vets play and encouraging new vets into the sector
• Encouraging vets from across producer companies to discuss areas of common interest: from veterinary medicines and antibiotics to health challenges and mitigation measures.

“When it comes to improving the lives of fish, there’s no reason for producers to ‘hide their homework’, as it were. What benefits one company, could benefit us all,” said Soutar.

Outside of farming circles, Soutar’s work has been equally impactful, helping put farmed fish welfare firmly on the agenda.

This includes:

Serving as the fish vet representative on the Scottish Government’s Farmed Fish Health Framework
• Advising on all aspects of aquaculture medicines as part of Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) Veterinary Products Committee
• Discussing fish vet issues with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, including Brexit-related changes to export certification
• Contributing to the British Veterinary Association’s new policy position on sustainable aquaculture, as a member of the working group.

All of which has led to farmed fish welfare benefiting from greater understanding, greater resources and – critically – greater protection than ever before.

Soutar was presented with the Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Cargill, at last night’s Aquaculture UK dinner, held at the MacDonald Drumossie Hotel in Inverness.

Commenting on the award, Soutar said: “Outstanding contribution feels like a very grand title for what I see as just doing my job; a job I am hugely passionate about.

“However, it’s also a great honour to have my work recognised in this way by people I really respect and admire.”

Scottish Sea Farms Managing Director Jim Gallagher said: ‘In Ronnie, we have a true champion of animal welfare; someone who recognises the complexities of the species we farm and the challenges faced, but who is continually driving us on to do and be better.

“Without doubt, Ronnie is one of the instrumental figures in Scottish salmon farming today – a man whose name is not only well-known but, more tellingly, well-respected across farming, veterinary and government circles alike.”