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Brandon Holt

Marine Farm Worker


On a typical day at the Marlborough Sounds salmon farm where he works, one of Brandon Holt’s first jobs is to check for seals in the fish pens. The inquisitive sea mammals need only a small hole in the enclosure nets to get in and gorge themselves on salmon. By the time Brandon comes around in the morning, they are often too fat to get out the way they came in.

“They know the routine – we stick a ladder in, and by that time they’re well-fed and ready to get out.” The seals haul themselves up the ladders and flop into the sea with full bellies.

Brandon got his job at the salmon farm after reading an article on aquaculture in the newspaper. He had just left high school and was looking for “something different” to do. “I didn’t even know fish farms existed. I wrote an email to New Zealand King Salmon to express my interest and they said 'We’ve got a harvest position open’.”

Brandon worked as a harvester for three months before getting a job as a shift worker. Harvesters commute to the marine farms daily on a company boat, and throughout the year move among the farms, harvesting fish. Shift workers live on floating accommodation attached to a farm and work seven days on, seven days off. It is the shift workers' job to raise the fish and make sure they are healthy and well-fed.

Brandon says there's a lot of things you need to keep an eye on to make sure the salmon farm runs smoothly. “I clean the nets with a net-cleaning machine – one net takes about three hours for a couple of us to clean, and we usually get two done each day. I also work as a dive attendant – when we have someone working in the water we need someone up top keeping an eye on them.

“Also when the stitching comes undone on nets we usually have to drive the boat around and fix the nets.

“Every day is different out here. The weather changes and things are breaking all the time; there’s always something new to do.”