The move comes just weeks before the 15 December deadline given by the Competition and Markets Authority for announcing its phase one decision on Scottish Sea Farms’ acquisition of Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK Limited.

Separate to this, the company is also planning over £40M key strategic investments in 2022, part of its ongoing drive to maximise farmed fish health and minimise any impact on the environment.

Gallagher’s involvement in SAIC dates back almost 10 years, when he was part of a multi-stakeholder advisory group tasked with scoping out the benefits of introducing an Innovation Centre dedicated to Scottish aquaculture.

When the Scottish Government later announced, in 2014, £11.1M of public funding to bring such a centre into being, Gallagher was appointed as one the founding members of the SAIC board, going on to serve two terms.

Speaking of his decision to step down, Gallagher said: “It has been a tremendous honour to be a part of the SAIC board for so many years. I have believed strongly in the concept since day one – and I haven’t been disappointed.

“Scottish aquaculture is without doubt better connected, more collaborative and operating increasingly sustainably thanks to the ongoing work of SAIC and its Independent Scientific Panel to bring together the country’s producers and academics to address some of the sector’s most pressing challenges and opportunities.

However, the opportunities immediately ahead of Scottish Sea Farms have the potential to be equally transformative in terms of the company’s own growth and development, and I am keen to give those my undivided focus and attention.

Commenting on Gallagher’s stepping down from the board, SAIC Chairperson David Gregory said: “Jim has been a member of the SAIC board from its formative stages and a continuous advocate for SAIC’s work. He has been ambitious on the Innovation Centre’s behalf and we are very grateful for his tremendous hard work over the last decade. He has played a key role in helping us to achieve our mission of increasing the economic impact and reducing the environmental footprint of the sector.”

SAIC Chief Executive Officer Heather Jones added: “Jim’s energy, absolute focus and leadership in Scottish aquaculture have been invaluable to SAIC. Since SAIC’s creation, he has helped shape our priority innovation areas, ensuring our research has closely reflected the sector’s needs. We also acknowledge with thanks the way that Scottish Sea Farms has engaged with SAIC by co-funding projects, sending staff on SAIC innovation programmes, and co-sponsoring the Women in Scottish Aquaculture initiative.”

For Gallagher, stepping down from the SAIC Board in no way means stepping away from the work of the Innovation Centre itself. To date, Scottish Sea Farms has collaborated in nine SAIC co-funded projects, ranging from improved sea lice control to increased understanding of gill health issues, contributing over £2.2M of the combined £6.8M project costs – a high level of support that Gallagher is keen to see continue.

“SAIC has an instrumental role to play in helping the sector to grow in the most sustainable way and Scottish Sea Farms fully intends to remain a part of that.

“From finfish and shellfish to feed and infrastructure, the appetite to accelerate the pace of change is huge, with producers and manufacturers prepared to put their hands in their pockets and academia keen to put their scientific specialisms to practical use.

“However, for the Innovation Centre concept to really deliver on its potential, and for Scotland to fully capitalise, SAIC also needs the ongoing support of the Scottish Government: from cutting back on the layers of bureaucracy and decision-making that can hamper innovation, to committing to increased funding over the longer-term.

“The contribution aquaculture can make to a greener, healthier and more prosperous Scotland is huge, if given the right conditions to deliver.”