“My life is like a big ball of elastic bands. It all combines into one very big ball, but there are just so many different components that go into it,” Simon Macdonald told Fishing News.
As a fisheries consultant, those components include advising overseas governments on management, sustainability and safety, adding value to private international and domestic projects – including in the processing and aquaculture sectors – sitting on parliamentary groups in both Westminster and Holyrood, public speaking and television appearances.
From a career spanning more than four decades, Simon has a wealth of experience to draw upon when it comes to advising clients. “I started off with a creel boat when I was living on the Isle of Eigg, landing into Mallaig.
“I then moved over to the mainland, to the village of Glenuig. Mine was the first boat to fish out of there for a number of years. I had the ground there pretty much to myself. I was getting very good landings of langoustine.
“I also became involved in the setting up of what was then the Highlands and Islands Fishermen’s Association, for static gear. I found that an area of the industry which I was quite keen to be involved in. The meetings gave me an insight into how other fishermen were getting on, and seeing what their issues and problems were compared to my own.”
Simon’s next move took him into the processing sector. “I set up a smokehouse in Glenuig. I ran that for about 35 years or so. I built it up from nothing to supplying from Beverly Hills in the west to Tokyo in the east. I supplied five royal households, three US presidents, various other country leaders, state openings of parliament – it was a very successful business.”
Simon also began to smoke other products – from animals less commonly found on Scotland’s west coast. “I wasn’t just smoking salmon and haddock and so on – I started smoking things such as alligator, kangaroo and ostrich, and all sorts of different things. That attracted a lot of media attention, which developed then into doing demonstrations and cooking with unusual foods, as well as seafood.”
The exposure from appearing on television programmes such as This Morning, BBC Breakfast and Channel Four’s Big Breakfast led Simon into consultancy, and in 2012 he sold the smokehouse and embarked on advising on projects in South Africa, and later, the south of France.
After ‘missing the rain and the midges’, he returned to Scotland in 2020 and took up the chairmanship of the West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (WCRIFG).
In January this year, with his three-year contract with the WCRIFG coming to an end, Sumin returned to full-time consultancy. “It’s keeping me pretty busy. I sometimes wish ‘a day in the life’ consisted of more than 24 hours!
“I’ve just finished a project in the south of France. I now have projects coming up in Switzerland, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana – as well as the UK.
“In Kenya and Ghana, for example, the industries are really totally unregulated, unmanaged and very unsafe. My role is to pull their industries together, and manage and regulate them, and put a full, long-term, sustainable plan in place.”
As a consultant, meetings are a prominent part of Simon’s day. The post-Covid online working environment means that he no longer needs to travel as much as he once did. “Rather than spending a day travelling to the north of Scotland for a meeting that may last an hour and a half, and then a day travelling back again, I can now have four or five online meetings per morning.
“You can be in the UK one second, America the next, Japan the next – all at the touch of a button. Technology has certainly speeded things up, and that’s great because now I can get things done at a much better pace.”
However, Simon admits that he still enjoys getting out to see projects first-hand. “I like to be there, get the sleeves rolled up, and muck in with people and get the job done. It brings you together with those you’re working with, and not just the people who own the project – but also those working for them. The biggest investment any business can make is in its personnel – and if you get them onside, then things are going to work out much better.”
His role also sees him compile end-of-consultancy reports. “I’ll provide the client with a booklet of progress and ideas – so they get a fuller picture and better insight into my chain of thought. That way, we can then fine-tune things as well.”
Simon says that his consultancy projects are often a two-way learning opportunity. “I learn something new out of every project – and so does my client, because they finish up with a viable business at the end of the day.
“I finish up with a lot more information, which helps me develop further projects elsewhere. It all goes into the melting pot to do good at the end of the day.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.
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