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Giada Desperati: From Dolphins and Sharks, to Salmon and Trout

Have You Always Been Interested in the Marine World?

I grew up near the Italian Alps with not a wave in sight! But I still had a passion for the sea and its creatures. I think that came about because we often spent our summer holidays by the sea.

It was a natural step for me to go on to study marine biology at university.

What Did You Do When You Graduated?

I knew I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab. What I wanted was to spend my days with dolphins in a sunny climate! Of course, that’s what most marine biology graduates want to do. I was lucky though: my first job was working at a diving centre on the Italian island of Sardinia and one of the tasks was to monitor wildlife in the area, including dolphins.

Did You Go On To Work In Scotland After That?

No. I decided I wanted to see the world and continue to pursue my dream of working closely with marine animals.

I went to South Africa to help with a research project monitoring great white sharks. Every day we were out on the water observing these incredible, majestic creatures. It was a real privilege.

Then I had a bit of a change of pace. I took a role in Berenika in Egypt on the Red Sea. The coral reef there is very well preserved and I led tourists on snorkelling safaris and shared my knowledge of the marine biology of the reefs.

My final bit of globetrotting took me all the way to New Zealand where I worked in a small aquarium.

So Your Globetrotting Days Are Now Over?

I went back to Italy, as my sister was getting married. Coming home for such a wonderful family event made me realise that I didn’t want to live and work so far away from my family anymore.

But I knew that I still wanted to work in the marine environment and I thought that Scotland would be a great place to base myself while I learned all I could about aquaculture.

I was lucky enough to land a job with a salmon farming business in the north-west of Scotland. I worked there for six years and I learned so much about all the different aspects of fish farming. Whilst working there, I attended a fish welfare course at Stirling University.

This Was a Pivotal Moment For You?

It was! I realised exactly what my true calling was. Animal welfare had always been a passion, but now I could see a way to make it my career. 

I applied to be an aquaculture assessor with RSPCA Assured. I was taken on to train to assess salmon in 2022. Then, last month, I qualified to train to assess our rainbow trout members as well.

What Does the Job of an RSPCA Aquaculture Assessor Involve?

It involves visiting salmon and trout farms that are members of RSPCA Assured to ensure they are complying with all the detailed RSPCA welfare standards. 

These standards help our farming members achieve the best possible welfare for their fish at every stage of their lifecycle. 

I think I am particularly suited to the role as I have always liked meeting people and I enjoy visiting different farms and talking to the producers. I am very proud of them. They really care for the animals they look after and the environments they farm in.

I love my work and it makes me happy to think I am making a real difference to animal welfare every working day.  

All of us can make a difference though, by looking for the RSPCA Assured label when they go shopping. 

The more we do that, the more supermarkets and restaurants will realise there is a strong demand for products that have come from animals reared to higher standards. And the knock-on effect of that is more farm animals being reared to higher welfare standards.

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