In June, we held our annual Fishing News Awards, which recognise the achievements of fishermen, companies, products and initiatives across the UK and Irish fishing industry.

Due to the restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we followed the successful format from 2020 and held a digital awards ceremony, bringing people in the industry across the UK and Ireland together virtually for an evening of celebration.

It was then down to the nation’s postal staff to deliver the trophies to the winners – but by return came pictures, videos and messages allowing us to share in their success.

Not only did this year see the addition of two new categories (Product of the Year and U10 Fisherman of the Year), we also saw an unprecedented number of votes cast, so thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s awards.

We’d also like to give a special thank you to our sponsors who supported the 2021 Fishing News Awards. We couldn’t have achieved such successful awards without their support. Find out more about our sponsors here.

Lastly, we’d like to thank the brilliant winners of this year’s Fishing News Awards, who went above and beyond during what has been an extremely difficult year.

So, without further ado, meet the winners of the 2021 Fishing News Awards…

Demersal Fisherman of the Year

Winner: Richard Fowler 

Richard Fowler’s love of the sea began when he was 10, with hours of boating, fishing, making lobster gear and learning from the locals.

He now lives in Brixham, and during his fishing career has owned three boats. These days, Richard spends time ashore making and repairing gear for the local fleet, as well as helping with the ever-increasing health and safety side of the industry. He’s also been a volunteer crew member of Torbay lifeboat for 27 years.

“The whole thing was most unexpected, from the first phone call to the eventual virtual awards night, when I heard the outcome of winning the Demersal Fisherman of the Year category,” Richard told us. “After a lifetime of working in fishing, it’s great to have been recognised. Although now I am spending much more time ashore, I’m still greatly industry-oriented.

“A big thank you to my nominators, and a massive thank you to all the people who voted. It’s much appreciated by myself and my family.”

U10 Fisherman of the Year

Winner: Tristan Northway

Tristan Northway has been fishing for the best part of 20 years. He started off landing boats when he was a boy, and became a deck learner in his school holidays on a local beamer. 

Today he owns Adela BM 79, the smallest day-hauler in the Brixham fleet, which he fishes single-handed. He now sells directly to the public, and live-hauls his catches on social media so his customers can see how their fish is caught. 

“I am over the moon to receive this award,” Tristan said. “I have worked endlessly over the last 18 months to keep my business going, but have really opened the public’s eyes to what goes on on a single-handed boat. I’ve worked through all the stages of becoming a hardworking single-handed fisherman who owns and runs his boat, due to my determination to succeed against all the odds. 

“This award is a massive achievement for me, and I’m proud to put it on display. I would like to thank everyone who followed and voted for me. I couldn’t have done it without you, the public.”

Shellfish Fisherman of the Year

Winner: Chris and Mike Harvey

Brothers Chris and Mike Harvey have been fishing ever since they left school. Their 9m catamaran Predator LI 556, built by their father in 2004, is a proven workhorse. Both qualified skippers, the Harvey brothers are a longstanding team. 

They sell most of their catch of crabs and lobsters to Portsmouth-based Viviers UK, and the rest to their family business Potters, where it is prepared for local sale.

“We feel extremely privileged to have won the Shellfish Fisherman of the Year award,” said Mike Harvey. “My brother and I enjoy working in the fishing industry, and hope others will join us in bringing sustainability to the very top, to help younger generations to come.”

Young Fisherman of the Year 

Winner: Steve Elwell

Steve Elwell started spending time with the Rye fishing community at the age of 11, despite having no family fishing background. He started fishing full-time at the age of 16. He was lucky enough to buy his own vessel, the trawler/netter Boy Luke B, at the age of just 21. 

He tells us that the help and wisdom of the other local fishermen have helped him to get where he is today.

“It was a great achievement to win the award after a very hard year throughout the pandemic, trying to sell our own fish, and with challenging prices,” Steve said. “It’s nice to have a positive outcome.”

Trainee Fisherman of the Year

Sponsored by Sunderland Marine

Winner: Sam Birt

Sam Birt is 17 years old and has been involved with the fishing industry since the age of 10. He has worked on his father’s boat, KT-SAM, has completed several trips on the day-boat trawler New Seeker, and has now passed his Seafish skipper’s ticket. 

He currently divides his time between fishing on the family boat, making gear, and helping out with processing in his parents’ fish shop.

“This award means a lot to me,” said Sam, “as I’m very proud to be a fisherman and part of the South West fishing community.”

Product of the Year 

Jason Clark, technical director at Thistle Marine.

Winner: Three-barrel trawl winch –
Thistle Marine

The latest design of Thistle Marine’s three-barrel trawl winch has incorporated new features in line with the latest safety procedures.

To eliminate the risk of anyone accidentally coming into contact with either the wire or revolving drums, steel guard covers are fitted over each of the winch barrels. 

Other innovative features include a new design of split clutch and square-on shaft for ease of maintenance and replacement in the future, removing the need for a full strip-down.

“Many thanks to everyone who supported and voted for us,” said Thistle Marine. “This award for Product of the Year means so much for all at Thistle Marine. 

“Thanks also to John Clark for entrusting us with producing this new and improved three-barrel trawl winch, where safety was a key factor.”

 

Fish Processor of the Year

Winner: Sole of Discretion

Sole of Discretion started trading in May 2016, and sells to organic online delivery companies as well as independent farm shops and delis across the UK. 

The company was born of a desire to make it easier for the conscientious shopper to eat fish without the worry that they might be contributing to the depletion and damage of the marine ecosystem. 

“We are over the moon to be recognised by the Fishing News Awards for the work we do with small-scale fishers. We take pride in processing even the lesser-known species our seas have to offer, that get so overlooked, in our fixation on the ‘Big 5’,” said the team at Sole of Discretion.

“Thanks for your support!”

The Sustainability Award

Sponsored by The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust

Paul Macdonald from the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation.

Winner: BATmap – University of Aberdeen (Tara Marshall), Chordata Ltd (Eric Torgerson) and the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation (Paul Macdonald)

BATmap – the Bycatch Avoidance Tool using Mapping – was launched in June 2020. It combines catch reports with vessel position data, and when an alert threshold catch value is exceeded, details of the location and volume of the catch are shared with participating skippers.

This conveys the location of potential bycatch hotspots, while preserving the anonymity of reporting vessels. 

“We are very honoured to receive the Sustainability Award 2021,” said Paul Macdonald from the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation. “The award recognises the work that has gone into developing BATmap by ourselves, the participating POs – AFPO, NESFO, OFPO, SFO – and, most importantly, the west of Scotland skippers who were willing to adopt new approaches to bycatch reduction, and who played a key role in designing a system that worked for them. 

“We are grateful to Fisheries Innovation Scotland, Seafish and SWFPA for their support and funding contributions. We also recognise the fantastic, innovative work being done by all this year’s nominees, each of whom would have been worthy winners. Find out more about BATmap at: bit.ly/3igultp.”

Independent Retailer of the Year

Winner: Lyme Bay Fish Shack

Lyme Bay Fish Shack is run by husband and wife team Nigel and Corinne Birt, who started the business in 2012. The family has its own boat, KT-SAM E 10, run by Nigel and their son Sam, which works out of Lyme Regis. 

They pot for lobsters and crab, use static nets for species like Dover sole and plaice, and rod and line for bass, pollack and cod.

“We are so delighted and proud to have been nominated for, and awarded, Independent Fish Retailer of the Year,” the team at Lyme Bay Fish Shack told us. “Thank you to all our customers.

“To receive this award is a massive achievement for us and our great team. We have great working relationships with many local fishermen, and part of this award is dedicated to them and the supply of amazing fresh fish that we get to sell.”

New Demersal Boat of the Year

Winner: Georgina of Ladram BM 100

Owned by Waterdance Ltd and built by Luyt Groep

Chloe North, manager of the Western Fish Producers’ Organisation, and Martyn Youell, head of fisheries at Waterdance.

The Brixham-based Georgina of Ladram has the distinction of being the biggest new beamer to be built for local owners, and the first for 30 years. Completed by Luyt BV in the Netherlands after the hull and superstructure were built at Ibis shipyard, Burgum, Georgina of Ladram features an electrically driven and pneumatically controlled 10-drum winch.

“Waterdance is delighted to have been awarded best new demersal fishing vessel for the Georgina of Ladram,” the company said. “The Georgina is the product of years of developmental and construction work intended to create a ‘next-generation’ vessel, and demonstrates our long-term investment in UK fishing.

“This is the first new-build beam trawler for the South West of England in decades, and places the UK fishing industry as international leaders – which is where we should be.

“The Georgina of Ladram is part of the Western Fish Producers’ Organisation, which began operating from 1 January, 2021 and is working on fishing gear, marketing and sustainability projects to ensure the products landed by the Georgina and other members adhere to best practices and are continually improved.”  

New Pelagic Boat of the Year 

Winner: Lunar Bow PD 265

Owned by Lunar Fishing and built by Karstensens Skibsværft A/S

Lunar Bow skipper AJ Buchan.

The Peterhead-based, diesel-electric-drive, dual-purpose purse-seiner/midwater trawler Lunar Bow features a totally new hull design in which the full-length boat deck is capped by a long forecastle deck to give increased freeboard and buoyancy forward when steaming into poor weather.

“Specifying, designing, constructing and building a vessel like Lunar Bow is very much teamwork, externally as well as internally,” said boatbuilder Karstensens. “We have been lucky to work with some very skilled owners, who have made huge contributions to the birth of Lunar Bow as a part of the whole team.”

“It was great to hear that we had won the award,” Lunar Fishing added. “A lot of time and effort goes into the design/building process of a new vessel, from the signing of the contract until the completion stage, and we were extremely happy with job that Kent Damgard and the rest of the Karstensen’s team did in that process. We had a great experience working with them. 

“Since taking delivery in January 2020, the new boat has performed extremely well. We are delighted with our new boat, and so to win the Fishing News Award is a nice way to round off the new-build process/experience.”

New Shellfish Boat of the Year 

Winner: Alcedo BA 77

Owned by West Coast Sea Products and built by Parkol Marine Engineering

The Kirkcudbright-based beam scalloper Alcedo features bespoke gear- and catch-handling systems, and electric-drive main winches operated through an advanced regenerative power management system. 

From left to right: Parkol Marine Engineering office administrator Olga Straw, fabrication chargehand Andy Miller, plater Nick Idle, joinery chargehand Mike Jones, and projects co-ordinator Stacy Fleming.

Scalloping activity is based around beams mounted at the base of the truncated A-frame main gantry amidships, outer hull tipping doors pivoted on top of the bulwarks that extend up to the level of the shelterdeck, and side receiving hoppers/conveyors.

“This vessel was a double first for Parkol; Alecdo was the first vessel we have built for West Coast Sea Products, and our first over-24m registered BV-classed vessel,” said Parkol Marine. “We are very grateful to John King for putting his faith in us and giving us the opportunity to build Alecdo. 

“Also, a big thank you to Ian Paton from SC McAllister for the excellent design, and to everyone who works at Parkol. We wouldn’t be able to receive this award without the hard work and dedication of all our staff.”

Service Company of the Year

Jonathan Reid with the family company’s award.

Winner: John Reid & Son

“Thanks to everyone who thinks our company worthy of this award!” say the team at John Reid & Son, which was established by John and Margaret Reid on Islay in 1972. 

By the late 1970s, the company had firmly established itself in the manufacture and repair of fishing gear. 

Forty years later, the business, now known as Reid Scallop Gear and Chandlery, is still a family concern.

John and Margaret were joined by their son Jonathan, who opened a new workshop in Brixham in 2007, which has full facilities for the repair, renovation and manufacture of scallop gear.

Port of the Year

Pictured with the award at Mair’s Pier, where the new fishmarket is located, are Ronnie Gair, immediate past chairman of the board of Lerwick Port Authority (left) and Calum Grains, its chief executive.

Winner: Lerwick

The first whitefish to be landed into the new fishmarket at Lerwick in August 2020 marked the culmination of a farsighted £30m-plus project to create a modern hub for the Shetland fishing industry that started over 10 years ago. 

“Taking delivery of the award is a proud moment, and a great achievement for the port delivered during my time as chairman,” said Ronnie Gair, the immediate past chairman of the board of Lerwick Port Authority. 

“The recognition is shared with all our stakeholders involved in developing and operating the new state-of-the-art market. The new fishmarket makes a valuable contribution to the industry and the Shetland economy.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

Sponsored by SWFPA

Winners: James Stephen and Jim Portus

James Stephen’s career spanned five decades.

This year saw two winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award: two individuals who, throughout their careers, have been true champions the commercial fishing industry.

James Stephen is a fifth-generation fisherman who was brought up in the village of Boddam in North East Scotland. His fishing career spanned five decades, and came to an end with his retirement at the beginning of this year.

Increasingly aware of the growing challenges the fishing industry continued to experience in the 1990s, James Stephen became involved in the political side of fishing in 1996 when he became a branch member and later a director of the SWFPA. 

James served on the board of Fishing into the Future for three years. He is currently a technical advisory committee board member of Fisheries Innovation Scotland, and also on the board of the Scottish Fishing Safety Group. 

“It means a lot to me to achieve this award,” said James. “I feel very humbled to have jointly shared it with Jim Portus. I also think a lot of credit should go to the fantastic crewmen I have had the pleasure of sailing with over my career at sea. Also to my family, for putting up with long spells away at sea. 

“I’ve also been lucky being able to have a career doing something I have always wanted to do, and loved. It’s had its ups and down, but we are a resilient hardy bunch and always manage to scrape through. I wish all fishermen a bright and prosperous future.”

Jim Portus has been the chief executive of the SWFPO for over 30 years.

Jim Portus, who has been chief executive of the South Western FPO for three decades, with his retirement now imminent, is a high-profile fishermen’s leader and champion.

He has not only carried out the demanding job of managing the SWFPO, but has fought for their and other fishermen’s interests on a wide range of issues. He was honoured at the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020 with an MBE for services to the fishing industry.

Jim is also a dedicated fundraiser for the Fishermen’s Mission. He has run a total of 23 London and other marathons to raise money for the charity, and more recently organised the popular Fishstock seafood and music event in Brixham.

“I am utterly thrilled to be the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. It truly is the crowning glory of a wonderful life at the helm of SWFPO Ltd,” said Jim. 

“I had no idea what a producer organisation was in 1987, when I left the sea to begin a new career in the fishing industry, but I can say honestly that there has never been a dull moment. I have faced the challenges with good humour and determination in equal measure. 

“When I finally lay up my boots in retirement, I will look back on the industry with great affection, and hope that the people I have met along the way will regard my time with them the same. 

“I thank the judges at Fishing News for this award, and I thank also my assistant, Karen at SWFPO, for organising my schedules for over 30 years, ensuring I’ve always been at the right place for the meetings that have punctuated a busy and rewarding working life.” 

Find out more about the Fishing News Awards here and watch our video presentation of the winners below…