Two hundred and ninety guests attended the gala presentation evening for the Fishing News Awards 2024 to celebrate the achievements of people, companies and organisations across the UK and Irish fishing industry.

The awards have grown year on year since they were relaunched as a live event in 2022 following the Covid hiatus, and this year’s was our biggest yet, with a sell-out 290 guests at the gala awards evening at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, and a record number of votes cast in the eight categories decided by Fishing News readers.

The Fishing News Awards celebrate all aspects of an industry that draws its strength from the collective achievements of its many parts – and the wide range of finalists in this year’s awards, from all corners of the UK and Ireland, reflected that.

The Boat of the Year categories were decided by an expert panel drawn from the worlds of naval architecture, safety certification and engineering. Their expertise makes those awards even more prestigious, and highlights the vision and innovation that continue to make the fleet safer, more efficient and a better workplace.

The Sustainability Award was also decided by a judging panel, which included independent scientists as well as fishing industry representatives – and we are grateful to all of this year’s judges for their time and expert input.

Our thanks go to everyone who has helped to make this year’s awards possible, and particularly to our sponsors: the Marine Stewardship Council, Peterhead Port Authority, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, Seafish and Sunderland Marine.

Thank you also to Seafood Scotland for providing the fantastic seafood for the awards dinner, and to Sunderland Marine and Fishing into the Future for their support of our young and trainee finalists, which enabled many of them to attend the awards in person.

We would also like to thank everyone who took the time to make nominations and place votes in this year’s awards, and to all the shortlisted candidates for taking part. Our congratulations to all of this year’s winners – and also to the many very deserving runners- up.

Once again, the Fishing News Awards provided a great opportunity for our community – which for much of the year is spread so far apart – to meet up with friends old and new, and to celebrate all that is good about our industry.


Winner: James Spencer

Over 10m Fisherman of the Year James Spencer receiving his trophy from Graeme Reid, chief executive of sponsor Peterhead Port Authority.

“It’s a great thrill and an honour,” newly crowned Over 10m Fisherman of the Year James Spencer told Fishing News. “Especially winning for a second time.”

Skipper of Sylvia Bowers DS 8, James, who was named Shellfish Fisherman of the Year in 2018, was nominated this year for having ‘a passion for the job like no other, and a wealth of experience’.

“It was a good event, and it was great to meet up with a lot of people who I haven’t seen for a while – and to meet with a lot of new people as well,” he said.

“All of my family were at the event, and my work colleagues and bosses – it was a really good night. Fred MacAulay was very good, and you could see everyone was having a good laugh.”

James, who has been fishing for more than four decades – almost 25 years of which have been onboard the Sylvia Bowers – said the award was recognition of both his vessel and his crew. “I’ve been fishing a long time; I’ve had a steady crew, and it’s a good boat. It’s a good reflection of what we do.”

With his new trophy proudly on display in the living room cabinet alongside his award from 2018, James thanked all those who had helped him towards the latest accolade.

“I’d like to thank whoever nominated me, and everybody who took the time to vote. I’d also like to thank Macduff Shellfish for organising everything for me and my family to attend the awards.

“Additionally, I’d like to thank my family, who I’ve spent a lot of time away from over the years, and my crew as well. And thanks also to everybody who has helped out down the years.”

Sponsor: Peterhead Port Authority

Category sponsor Peterhead Port Authority said: “We were delighted to renew our sponsorship of the Over 10m Fisherman of the Year category for the 2024 Fishing News awards.

“It is important for the industry to take time to reflect on the achievements of the past year, celebrate the tremendous efforts that go into making the fishing industry the success that we can all share, and plan for a bright and sustainable future.

“There are very many individuals who contribute to this in addition to those nominated and recognised. It was an evening of good company, good food, networking and entertainment which was greatly enjoyed.”


Winner: Ian Wightman

Under 10m Fisherman of the Year Ian Wightman with host Fred MacAulay and editor Andy Read.

Clyde fisherman Ian Wightman told Fishing News that he was ‘humbled to get the recognition, but delighted to receive it’ after being named Under 10m Fisherman of the Year for 2024.

Ian, who works the Eilidh Anne GK 2, targeting Nephrops, was described in his nomination as having a great track record of working to enhance the reputation and marketing of langoustine in both the UK and Continental markets.

“It was a bit of a shock to be named as the winner, but a pleasant shock,” he told FN. “It’s nice to get recognition against some stiff competition – and I’m delighted to have come out on top.

“The event was really good. There was a nice, positive vibe in the room, and there were lots of well-known faces – and you could see everybody was there to enjoy themselves.

“Fred MacAulay was excellent. There was a good bit of ad-libbing, and you could tell he was quite happy to go off-piste and come back to his lines later on.”

During the voting for the awards, Ian ran a unique campaign that saw his ‘battle bus’ take to the road to drum up some last-minute support.

The bus was photographed – with the help of a touch of digital editing – at a diverse range of locations, including Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower and Rockall.

“I’d like to thank my campaign manager Jason Thomas from South Quay Shellfish for his photographic genius work, which created a bit of a laugh,” said Ian.

“I’d also like to thank everybody who deemed me worthy enough for a vote – very much appreciated.”


Winner: Lee Gallagher

Lee Gallagher, Young Fisherman of the Year 2024, receiving his trophy from Simon Potten of sponsor Seafish.

“It was a very proud moment for me because I had my dad and grandpa at the event – so there were three generations of us there, as well as all of my family and friends,” Young Fisherman of the Year Lee Gallagher told Fishing News. Fishing for langoustine, crab and lobster out of Tobermory from his own creel boat Ceol na Mara OB 5, 23-year-old Lee said: “I wasn’t expecting to win. It’s amazing, really.

“It was such a tough category, with three other really worthy people. To hear my name getting called out – speechless is the word!”

Lee, who was described in his nomination as ‘a highly ambitious man’, said the awards ceremony was ‘absolutely brilliant’.

“It really was a fabulous night, and you could have done with it lasting even longer, just to meet and catch up with everyone.

“There was such a wide group of people there from across various parts of the industry – it was really nice to get to speak to everyone from all those different areas.”

Lee, who admitted that the following day’s visit to the Scottish Skipper Expo was ‘a sore one’, paid tribute to those who had helped him.

“I would like to thank my mum and dad, all my family and friends, Kenny Turnbull and Hector Mackenzie, and also my crewman Andrew Nordan. He’s stuck by me since I started skippering, and he’s been with me for nearly four years now.

“It’s unbelievable the support that I have from everyone.”

Sponsor: Seafish

Simon Potten, Seafish head of training, safety and services, said: “Seafish was once again delighted to sponsor the Fishing News Awards, and specifically the Young Fisherman of the Year category.

“The standard of nominees for this award was once again very high, so Lee Gallagher did incredibly well to win.

“Fisher safety and training is fundamental to Seafish’s work, helping our seafood sector to thrive. Encouraging and supporting new entrants into the industry is a key priority for us. Seeing some of them progress to be nominated for awards like this gives a real thrill.”


Winner: Fraserburgh

“We’re delighted that Fraserburgh Harbour was named Port of the Year at this year’s Fishing News Awards,” harbour development manager Pamela Neri told Fishing News.

The UK’s top Nephrops port, Fraserburgh is also home to a large section of the Scottish pelagic fleet.

The port is currently undertaking work to strengthen the outer harbour wall – an improvement that will support its hugely ambitious new harbour plan. This also includes a number of other major infrastructure projects, including the deepening of Faithlie Harbour and improved access to the fishmarket.

Additional improvements to support the fishing industry will include the widening of the entrance to Balaclava Harbour, enhancing the existing shiplift facility, an extension to the existing breakwater, the construction of a new deepwater basin, and an additional drydock capable of handling vessels up to 100m length and 25m beam.

“To be voted as winner by the public and our industry colleagues makes the award particularly special. It reflects our commitment to the future of the harbour, and the economic development of Fraserburgh and the wider region,” Pamela Neri told FN.

“Fishing News once again organised an excellent evening of celebration and recognition for the outstanding work undertaken throughout the year, making this an important event for the industry.”


Winner: Joe Osborn

Trainee Fisherman of the Year Joe Osborn receiving his award from Craig McBurnie, head of sponsor Sunderland Marine.

Film-making fisherman Joe Osborn told Fishing News that it was ‘a good feeling’ to be named 2024 Trainee Fisherman of the Year. “It was unexpected. I didn’t know I had that many friends who would vote for me.

“I was with Lewis Geddes, who was also shortlisted. He’s 17 and working on trawlers – so I felt he deserved it way more than I did!”

Joe, who last year filmed It’ll Never Work, a documentary about Hans Unkles’ new electric fishing vessel, fishes out of Carsaig Bay on Mull under the tutorship of Dougie Chirnside on the Carraig Beag TT 172.

He described the awards ceremony as ‘really lovely’. “The food was good, and it was nice to meet with new people,” he said. “It was really cool meeting Skipinnish, who won Initiative of the Year. We play their song The Clearances Again quite a lot on the boat – so it was amazing seeing them in person.”

Joe was described in his nomination as showing ‘dedication, determination and an all-round willingness to learn the job’.

“I’d like to thank all of my mentors, including Dougie Chirnside, Hans Unkles and Lachie Paterson – who led the three-week training course that I took initially – and the Clyde Fishermen’s Association as well for funding that training,” Joe told FN.

“It’s nearly been a whole year on the fishing boat now – and it’s been great fun. It’s been a fantastic year.”

Sponsor: Sunderland Marine

Craig McBurnie, head of Sunderland Marine, said: “Sunderland Marine proudly sponsors the Trainee Fisherman of the Year category at the Fishing News Awards, and I was delighted to present Joe Osborn with the award.

“We’re privileged to support the Fishing News Awards, championing young seafarers who embody the future of our seas and communities. It was a fantastic evening, and the award went to a worthy winner.

“We also had the pleasure of meeting our customers and industry connections at the Scottish Skipper Expo and seafood reception. This event is a highlight in the Sunderland Marine calendar, and we look forward to the next one.”


Winner: Fishing Animateur

Abbey Crosby, Ruby Wilson, Lowena Poole and Heather Emberson-Marl of Fishing Animateur receiving their Service Provider of the Year award.

“We at the Fishing Animateur project were very thankful to have been put forward for Service Provider of the Year Award, and extremely happy to have won,” a spokesperson for the Cornwall-based service told Fishing News.

The service, which works with fishermen as individuals or groups, provides hands-on support to help those in the under-12m fleet to identify and apply for funding.

“We had an amazing time at the awards evening in Aberdeen, especially meeting others from the industry, as well as the atmosphere and the food,” the spokesperson said.

The organisation, which aims to help fishermen achieve things they might not necessarily be able to realise on their own, added: “At the Animateurs, none of our work would be possible without the excellent relationships built between the team and the grant team at the MMO, who do a great professional job in helping us and fishermen to access support.

“We thank our funders, The Seafarers’ Charity, The Fishmongers’ Company and Trinity House. Without their support, none of our work would be possible.”

Katherine Nissen, chief executive of the Cornwall Rural Community Charity, which runs the project, said. “We are so pleased to be supporting our work Fishing Animateur does, fishing communities with the and the help it offers.”


Winner: Hans Unkles

Sustainability Award winner Hans Unkles receiving his trophy from Karen Atwood of category sponsor MSC.

Nominated for his three-year effort to refit his C21 creeler Lorna Jane as the UK’s first solar-powered creeler, as well his wider commitment to sustainability, 2024 Sustainability Award winner Hans Unkles told Fishing News: “This is a great honour, and what a fun night at the awards too!

“I am really hopeful that winning the Sustainability Award will open new doors for me – Lorna Jane is finished, and I can now go fishing, but I’d like the luxury of being able to monitor, adjust, tweak the boat, measure everything performance-wise, really carefully, and then get the detailed information out to the many people who’ve contacted me about this.

“That takes time, and money, and to do it justice I really need funding of some sort to enable me to continue the development work.”

Sponsor: The Marine Stewardship Council

Karen Atwood, senior PR and media manager at MSC UK and Ireland, said: “It was fantastic to attend the Fishing News Awards, and what a great event it was this year.

“The MSC was very proud to sponsor the Sustainability Award for the first time this year. Congratulations to winner Hans Unkles, a pioneer of solar-powered technology, who converted the Lorna Jane into the UK’s first fully approved electric commercial fishing vessel.

“A huge thank you to the judging panel, Dr Bryce Stewart from York University, Hannah Fennell, president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, David Warwick from Seafish and Lisa Bennett from the MSC, for your time and consideration over the finalists – and congrats also to all the finalists for their impressive nominations.”


Winner: The Clearances Again campaign by Skipinnish and Donald Francis MacNeil

Angus MacPhail and Rory Grindlay of Skipinnish with their Initiative of the Year award.

The chart-storming protest song The Clearances Again by Skipinnish and Donald Francis (DF) MacNeil was a number one hit with voters in the Initiative of the Year category.

“It was a great honour for ourselves and DF MacNeil to receive the award,” Angus MacPhail, the song’s writer and co-founder of Skipinnish, told Fishing News.

“The Clearances Again campaign was a desperate shot in the dark to try and raise awareness of the injustice of HPMAs and the irreversible catastrophic damage they would do. We were very pleased that the song connected with the general public and politicians, and that we were able to play a small part in these disgraceful proposals being scrapped.”

Angus MacPhail described the awards ceremony as ‘a wonderful gathering of people from across many sectors of the fishing industry’. “With so many people to try and catch up with, an extra 24 hours added to the after-party would have been good!

“Huge thanks to the businesses and organisations who supported the campaign with sponsorship. We could not have completed the project without their support, and it is very, very much appreciated.

“Thanks to MacNeil Shellfish, Inverlussa Marine Services, PDK Shellfish Ltd, Kallin Shellfish Ltd, Islay Crab Exports, T Barbour Ltd, Clyde Fishermen’s Association, The Western Isles Fishermen’s Association, MacLean Coaches, Scotlive Ltd and Barratlantic Ltd.

“Thanks also to Andy Read and all at Fishing News for the great coverage given to the campaign.”


Winner: Daystar FR 86

Owner: Stephen West

Builder: Parkol Marine Engineering

Build priorities for the striking 25m twin-rigger Daystar FR 86 were comfort and safety for the live-aboard crew, as well as greater fuel efficiency. It features a Mitsubishi main engine and deck machinery from Bopp, Thistle Marine and EK Marine.

Daystar owner Stephen West was unable to attend the awards evening due to a prior commitment with some prawns off Newlyn – but we were able to present him with his trophy at the Scottish Skipper Expo two days later. He is pictured with Tricia Willis, Andrew Oliver and Sally Atkinson of Parkol Marine Engineering.


Winner: Inter Nos PZ 46

Owners: Will Treneer, Elizabeth Lambourn and Sam Lambourn

Builder: G Smyth Boats

The 14.95m GRP G Smyth Maxus catamaran Inter Nos PZ 46 incorporates a host of features likely to become the ‘new normal’ in the Cornish sardine fishery, including an innovative pumping system designed to reduce handling and maximise catch quality.

Boat of the Year judging

Chair of the judging panel for the boat categories, SFF safety officer Derek Cardno, said that whilst the four judges had all agreed on the clear winners of the two categories, the breadth of the entries, and the overall quality and innovation, was a real sign of optimism for the industry.

“It is really encouraging to see so many fishermen investing in the future and putting a huge amount of thought into pushing the design of their vessels. This was apparent from the Davlin, with an incredible quality of fit-out for a 7m vessel, all the way through to the large pelagic vessels.

“When we got together as a group, there were some different scores, partly due to different judges having greater experience of some of the vessels, perhaps from their own area, but overall we were very consistent in the ratings. The scoring criteria that were set really helped the group, where we were looking at innovation, crew safety and so on.

“It was clear to the panel that real thought had been put into pushing the designs to the max in relation to crew safety and welfare, while striving to make greatest fuel efficiency.

“I am really grateful and thankful to my fellow judges for the time and effort they put into the judging. It was surprising when we compared our notes, as we agreed unanimously on the two winners. It was clear that everyone had gone to great effort to evaluate each vessel on the scoring criteria, and not just have a superficial box-ticking exercise.

“The inclusion of the refitted solar-powered vessel Lorna Jane also got us wondering if next year, we shouldn’t also have a category for refitted/modernised vessels, as owners opt to, for example, lengthen a vessel, to improve safety and working conditions, rather than go for a new build.

“We’d be interested to see more of this type of work featured in FN over the next year, and potentially this could be a valuable category showcasing this side of the industry, at a time when there is growing focus on reducing footprints in the industry in general.

“All in all, we were really pleased with this year’s entries, a sign not only of confidence in our future, but also showcasing the huge thought and experience of so many skippers and builders in developing new innovations that make the industry safer, more efficient and more attractive to spend a career in.”


Winner: Seafield Navigation Turbowin 3D ground discrimination

Neil Allan collecting Seafield Navigation’s trophy for Technical Innovation of the Year.

Calum West of Seafield Navigation said: “The voters caught us by surprise, and I was still getting ready for the expo the following day when the call came through that we’d won!

“We are delighted, of course, and would like to thank everyone who voted for the Turbowin system that we’ve developed to help maximise the efficiency of fishing operations.”

This new 3D plotting system allows skippers to fine-tune their approach, providing detailed ground discrimination, backed with data from multiple sources, that allows them to maximise the productivity of their gear on the seabed, and minimise interaction with non-target species and habitats.

Seafield Navigation engineer Neil Allan said: “My wife Lorna and I had a brilliant evening at the awards, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves collecting the award on behalf of Seafield on the night. Thanks for a great event.”


Winner: Jim Cowie

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jim Cowie (second from left) receiving his trophy from David Milne of category sponsor SWFPA.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked,” Jim Cowie told Fishing News. “It came to the Lifetime Achievement Award, and I was just sitting there listening. They started reading out all of the things the person had done.

“They didn’t mention my name, but they were saying things like fish merchant, fish processor, fish salesman – and then they said seafood restaurant. That’s when I thought: ‘Oh my god!’”

From starting out as a young man selling, marketing and merchanting fish to, aged 52, enrolling himself on a professional cookery course at the local college in preparation for becoming a restaurateur, Jim’s career has spanned more than 50 years.

Now host of the successful Seafood Matters podcast, Jim told FN that he’s been ‘overwhelmed’ by the reaction from the industry to his award.

“It’s absolutely tremendous. It’s such an honour. So many people came up to me and told me that it was richly deserved. It’s recognition by your own peers, and I’m just so, so pleased.

“There’s been so many people on the judging panel who I’ve been close to in recent weeks, and they’ve not even given me a whisper or indication – that says everything about them. It’s wonderful.

“I love the industry. I’ve said before about the podcasts being a way of putting something back into an industry that has given me such a happy life, and through which I’ve met so many great characters – and then what happens? That industry, and those characters, come and recognise me. That’s how much it means to me.

“The fishing industry is my life. I said to somebody that this award is my MBE. A restaurant gets a Michelin star – this is my equivalent.”

Sponsor: Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association

Mike Park, chief executive of the SWFPA, said: “It is an honour to be able to support the Fishing News Awards, which we view as an excellent platform to celebrate the best of the best – the fishing BAFTAs.

“It was a wonderful night, topped by a Lifetime Achievement Award to Jim Cowie, who continues to give so much back to our industry through his Seafood Matters podcast.”

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

Sign up to Fishing News’ FREE e-newsletter here


Subscribe to Fishing News magazine today; never miss an issue and save 55%!