Obituary: Guy Mace, aquaculturist

Guy Mace: Widely admired pioneer in the Scottish aquaculture industry
Guy Mace: Widely admired pioneer in the Scottish aquaculture industry
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Born: 20 June, 1950, in London. Died: 16 November, 2015, in Kilconquhar, in Fife, aged 65

Guy Mace, a hugely admired, pioneering leader in the aquaculture industry, died peacefully at the home he shared with his wife Lesley at Kilconquhar in Fife on 16 November.

Guy Whitmore Mace, one of three brothers, was born in 1950 in London and spent his early years around Lambourn where his father, John Mace, was a partner in a veterinary practice. In mid-career his father decided to study fish diseases in the USA before returning initially to join the White Fish Authority (which later became the Seafish Industry Authority) and then to food and supermarket group Fitch Lovell, where he formed a fish farming subsidiary called Golden Sea Produce (GSP).

Meantime, Guy had left King’s School, Bruton to study botany and zoology at London University (1969-72), followed by an aquaculture MSc at Stirling University.

Guy needed no persuasion to join his father at GSP and started by building a hatchery at Ardtaraig, in Argyll, where, in the winter of 1973 the first batch of wild salmon eggs were hatched and reared to produce salmon smolts, which were transferred to establish a salmon farm on Loch Striven.

Sadly, in 1978, Guy’s father died and Guy, aged 28, took over to run GSP. Following on from this, GSP’s focus moved further north with more hatcheries and sea farms being established on the Scottish west coast, creating much-needed employment in remote rural Highland and island communities.

Guy’s ambitions did not stop at salmon production and under his leadership Fitch Lovell bought Scotland’s first and only shellfish hatchery, Scottish Sea Farms at South Shian, near Oban.

The hatchery was also used to rear larvae for an innovative marine fish farm at Hunterston, which he developed using warm water from the adjacent nuclear power station, successfully rearing four species (turbot, Dover sole, halibut and sea bass).

In 1983, Fitch Lovell decided to sell GSP to the Norwegian conglomerate, Norsk Hydro, who invested heavily in the business, with Guy continuing as managing director until 2000.

Many new salmon seawater and freshwater farms were set up, and sites acquired, so that under its new name Hydro GSP was the second largest salmon farming company after Marine Harvest.

Guy also decided to internationalise their turbot hatchery expertise, resulting in a joint venture (Prodemar) between Norsk Hydro and the Bank of Bilbao, in order to rear turbot in shore-based tanks in Galicia, north-west Spain (unfortunately the first turbot crop were part-albino, which proved a little ahead of their time when it came to the Spanish market, but this venture is now the largest of its kind in the world albeit under different Norwegian owners).

As if that was not enough, Guy Mace with his father and brother was instrumental in setting up the first Sealife Centre aquarium close to the holiday town of Oban.

The Sealife Centre was a successful tourist business, but didn’t fit with Norsk Hydro’s plans for aquaculture, and was sold in 1987 – it is still going strong and today Sea Life is the world’s largest aquarium chain.

In 1999 Guy and Lesley acquired the Sea Life Centre in St Andrews and re-opened it as an independent aquarium which is known as St Andrew’s Aquarium and is managed by Guy’s eldest son John.

In 2004 Guy took over as managing director of BioMar in Grangemouth, the UK subsidiary of the Danish-owned fish feed company BioMar, and he consolidated its strong position supplying feed to Scottish salmon farms.

Guy retired as managing director in June 2015 while staying on as a BioMar board member; he had been suffering from increasingly poor health over the past two years and it’s a tragedy that he did not live to enjoy a richly deserved retirement.

As well as his unrivalled practical experience and vision in developing the Scottish aquaculture industry, Guy Mace will be fondly remembered for his energy, enthusiasm and good humour.

He was a natural leader and a popular friend and mentor to so many young fish farmers and colleagues.

In addition, Guy was a passionate sailor, who sailed many oceans and along the way he admired the wildlife which he so adored.

Our thoughts are very much with Guy’s devoted wife Lesley and their grown-up children, John, James and Clare, and the grandchildren, Lilly and Hugo.