Net Zero Heroes
Meet our region's net zero heroes already leading the way to a low carbon, sustainable future.
Graduate Support Programme puts Islay business on right tack
When Zoology graduate Hannah Stanger moved to Islay from Sunderland with her boyfriend, she was delighted to pick up seasonal work with the Islay Natural History Trust. She worked in the wildlife centre organising surveys, walks and talks throughout the 2021 summer season. As the season closed, she was out with a friend on one of the Islay Sea Adventures' trips, and heard that owner Gus Newman was hoping to take on a graduate - part-funded through our Graduate Support Programme.
Hannah applied and successfully got a job as Boat Trip Wildlife Specialist, she started in November. Gus, who was brought up on the island, and had his first boat at 12, is delighted to have secured Hannah's specialist wildlife knowledge, and also her skills in social, web and IT skills which are so valuable when providing great service to customers.
As well as bringing new thinking into the business at a time when the sector is working hard to bounce back from the pandemic, it has also enabled Hannah to secure a great job relevant to her degree and experience on Islay itself.
Islay Sea Adventures is based in Port Ellen Marina on the Isle of Islay. It offers a range of wildlife, fishing and foraging boat trips, mainly sailing out of Port Ellen but with some from Port Askaig.
Gus embarked on his lifelong career at sea as a fisherman when he was 16. At the age of 23 he trained firstly as a sports diver and then a commercial diver, before setting up Islay Dive Centre with his father.
This was the first of his many successful Islay businesses which have included Sport Dive Islay, Islay Marine Centre, StormCats, Scotland’s largest fibre glass boat building company, and StormPods, a manufacturer of fibreglass accommodation pods which won a Scottish Edge award for innovation in 2013.
Islay Sea Adventures was launched in 2014. The business started with one boat and now operates a total of six charter boats catering for leisure and commercial work.
I love the water, love the sea, and maybe one day I will get the opportunity to become a skipper, which would be great as there are not many female skippers about.Hannah Stanger, Boat Trip Wildlife Specialist, Islay Sea Adventures
Across the business, Gus now employs nine people plus two full-time skippers, who are self-employed, and two part-time guides, who work in different parts of Gus’s various businesses at different times of the year - multiple jobs and seasonal roles being a very common feature of island life!
In addition to her wildlife experience Gus is delighted that Hannah has been able to support the business's online development. With HIE's help through a digital enablement grant, they are looking at the best online experience for customers.
He says: "The new website will also make a big difference and will help us in our efforts to extend the season and explore new markets. For example, we continue to work closely with the distilleries and aim to provide more trips for their corporate clients, press visits and other visitors."
The team at Islay Sea Adventures has a very strong focus on the environment and sustainability and is continually looking for innovative ways to improve its own environmental and minimise any impact on local marine life.
This includes looking at options for an electric boat, both to reduce carbon emissions and to reduce disturbance to the wildlife they visit as part of their tours.
Where there isn't currently any electric options - for example for the longer distances the company requires for sea taxis to North Ireland - they are working to fit the most economical, most fuel-efficient engines with the least environmental impact, and run them at the most efficient speeds.
They have also signed up to the WISE course with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. All the skippers are being trained in how to operate vessels safely around marine mammals. The business will then be recognised as a SeaWatch Foundation ‘Boat Tour Recommended Operator’ – and will be included on its website as a recommended wildlife tour operator.
Islay Sea Adventures also plans to support more litter picks in the areas visited on its trips to help clean up the beaches, shorelines and skerries. Even doing this once a month which will make a big difference and is just one aspect of their work with the local community – where they aim to promote sustainability in partnership with other local businesses and organisations including the Islay and Jura Marketing Group.
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