“Piece it all together, and there’s a lot going on in the space of my day,” Mike Park OBE, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA), told Fishing News.

Growing up in a house situated just a few metres from Stonehaven harbour, it was perhaps inevitable that Mike was destined for a career in the fishing industry.

“Being in that environment, the harbour becomes your playground. From the age of eight or nine, I used to hang around the vessels and meet up with friends. Then we got a small creel boat. We used to make pots in the winter and shoot them in the summer.”

Mike’s presence around the harbour didn’t go unnoticed. “I progressed to relieving crew on some of the larger, older vessels. They used to fish on Saturday. So one of the crew would go off, and I would go on – and I’d get a small reimbursement for that. That tickled my interest in the industry.”

However, despite the attraction of fishing, Mike initially joined the merchant navy, his first trip being a six-month voyage to the Far East and back. But on his return home, a phone call changed the direction of his career. “When I got back on leave, I received a call from one of the local fish-selling agents. They said that the Argonaut – which was the top boat in the UK at that time – was looking for someone to step in for six or seven weeks.

“So I said yes. I went away in the Argonaut, making some good money. During that period, I also met my wife, and once my term on the vessel was finished, I decided to not go back to the merchant navy.”

Mike’s fishing career quickly progressed, evolving from successful skipper to vessel owner. It was during his time on the 28m Denebula that his interest in representing the wider industry began.

“I became involved in some of the association matters. I was chairman of the branch, and then vice chair and then chairman of the association. We then formalised the role – and that’s when I became executive chairman, and then latterly, chief executive – a role in which I’ve been for more than 10 years now.”

Mike on the quayside. In 2018, he was awarded an OBE for his work on recovering North Sea cod stocks. In 2011, he received the WWF International Sustainability Award.

With around 220 vessels and 1,400 fishermen in the SWFPA’s membership, Mike encounters a wide range of tasks over the course of his working day.

“There is no typical day for me. I have two parts to my life, one where I’m travelling – and I travel extensively to various meetings – and the other when I’m in the office.

“I always set the alarm at 6am. I get up, shower, and normally leave the house by 6.30am. Usually I’m in the office by 7.30am.

“The early start gives me an hour and a half before the world wakes up and starts emailing. It allows me to get on and do the things I don’t think I’ll get to do later, such as tidy my inbox.

“From there on, I’m into pre-arranged meetings, or I’m responding to emails. I could also be working on a number of reports. I chair several groups for which I need to write reports and position papers.

“Additionally, we’re going to build new offices and training facilities – so that’s going to take upalotofmytime.Wealso started a crew service company two and a half years ago, and that takes up a fair bit of my time too.”

Mike has been chief executive of the SWFPA for over a decade. “My role is made easy by having a good chairman, David Milne. I also get a lot of respect from the membership, and that makes my life far easier too. I think some of that respect comes from the fact that I spent 35 years fishing.”

With the wide variety of tasks, excellent organisation is an essential part of Mike’s role. “My diary is everything to me. That’s the plan of my life. My diary is normally arranged for two to three weeks ahead, but other things do come in.

“Very often we get requests from PhD students who want to interview me, and I always make time for that. I also might get an enquiry, for example, about a member fishing in Faroese waters, and wanting information on current closures. So I could spend an hour or so trying to get a Faroese document in English language that they can understand.”

Mike is also responsible for the small team at the SWFPA’s office, based in Fraserburgh. “We don’t have a big team, but we get through a lot of work. I tend not to micro-manage staff. We’ve got good staff here. It’s like having a fishing boat with a crew. I had the same crew for 17 years – they all knew what they were doing, there was no need to tell them what to do. This is the same.”

With the clock approaching 4pm, Mike goes through his end- of-day tasks. “I always take the time to speak to the staff before I leave. I also make sure that I haven’t overlooked anything which needed doing that day. I spend the last 15 minutes just trawling back through my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

“If anything comes in that needs dealing with, then I’ll defer something or stay late, and deal with it. You get spontaneous things come out of the woodwork quite routinely. I never get bored – put it that way.

“I love what I do.”

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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