Two hundred and fifty guests attended the gala presentation evening for the Fishing News Awards 2023 to celebrate the achievements and innovations of people, companies and organisations across the UK and Irish fishing industry

We are delighted to present the winners of the Fishing News Awards 2023.

Guests taking their seats for dinner in The Chester Hotel’s impressive banqueting hall.

We weren’t sure of the response the awards would receive when we returned as a live event in 2022 after the Covid hiatus, but last year’s event was a great success. This year we’ve seen even bigger participation in the awards, with a record number of people making nominations and placing votes.

The Fishing News Awards celebrate all aspects of an industry that draws its strength from the collective achievements of its many parts – fishermen, boatbuilders, service companies, ports, processors, retailers, and more.

The unprecedented level of voting this year demonstrates a level of engagement that shows we are a real community, rather than a disparate group of private businesses working in isolation.

The voting continues to be driven by enthusiastic support for the most important part of our industry – the young fishermen and trainees. This has been wonderful to see.

The awards presentation gets underway.

We’re especially grateful for the support again provided to our young finalists by Sunderland Marine and Fishing into the Future, which enabled many of them to attend the awards night in Aberdeen. And as one of last year’s young winners said, this will hopefully not be the last time we welcome them – we look forward to seeing them in future years as finalists in other categories.

This year, for the first time, Boat of the Year was decided not by a popular vote, but by an expert panel drawn from across the world of naval architecture, safety certification and engineering. We’re very grateful to the panel, chaired by SFF safety officer Derek Cardno, who judged the vessels on a range of criteria including vessel safety, crew comfort, care of the catch and fuel efficiency.

Their expertise makes this award an even more prestigious accolade for a new build, and highlights the vision, innovation and engineering expertise that continues to make the fleet safer, more efficient and a better workplace.

Scottish comedian Stephen Buchanan entertaining guests.

But as ever, celebrations are tempered by memories of those whose lives have been cut short, both at sea and ashore. Sadly, despite huge advances in our safety culture, we are reminded all too often of the true price of fish, paid not just in lives lost at sea, but by families left to cope without loved ones and breadwinners. That price, increasingly, is also being paid ashore, with many fishermen suffering under a combination of financial and mental pressures.

We were therefore very pleased to once again welcome the Fishermen’s Mission as our designated charity for these awards.

Fishermen’s Mission superintendent Mirian Kemp saying grace before dinner.

Our grateful thanks go to everyone who helped to make this year’s awards possible, and particularly to our sponsors: the Fishing Industry Safety Group, the Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust, Peterhead Port Authority, the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Seafish and Sunderland Marine.

Our thanks, too, go to Seafood Scotland, which not only provided the rich variety of quality seafood for the evening’s meal, but worked closely with the chefs at The Chester Hotel to create a bespoke menu. Thank you to 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 go to all of this year’s winners – and also to the many very deserving runners-up.

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

Over 10m Fisherman Of The Year

Winner: Darren McClements

Over 10m Fisherman of the Year Darren McClements receiving his award from Peter Duncan of sponsor Peterhead Port Authority.

“I’m very proud. It’s a very big thing,” newly crowned Over-10m Fisherman of the Year Darren McClements told Fishing News.

Portavogie-based Darren, skipper of the prawn trawler Golden Ray B 963, revealed that it was a last-minute decision to attend the awards ceremony. “I was very close to not even going. It’s never been done before, I don’t think – a winner from Northern Ireland. It certainly was a big shock when my name was called out.”

Nominated for ‘undertaking leading work for the industry’, which has included collaborating with Whitby Seafoods and SafetyNet Technologies (SNTech) on ground-breaking gear trials, Darren said: “They’re the reason I was up for the award. Yes, I put a lot of work into it, but it also comes down to the work of Whitby Seafoods and SNTech. They supplied me with the means of doing the work, and that’s the main part of what we’ve been trying to do over the past few years.

“We’ve spent many months searching for ways to improve quality (i.e. washing and icing systems), automating onboard catch-handling (conveyors) and reducing fuel usage (nozzle, net design and doors).

“This R&D work is vital to identify better ways of fishing and improved conditions at sea in the future, but it does reduce dedicated fishing time and your catch value landed.

“It’s expensive work that needs funding by committed parties. Whitby Seafoods has been vital in supporting me on this journey, which still has a way to go.

“Additionally, I’d like to thank Ben Collier from Northern Ireland Gear Trials, and CatchCam. I’d also like to thank my wife Judith – who has to listen to a lot!”

Darren described the awards ceremony as ‘first class’. “The food, and the atmosphere – it was a lovely experience.”

The evening could also be described as a ‘smashing’ experience for Darren after his newly acquired trophy was accidentally knocked to the floor – luckily, a replacement is already on its way to Northern Ireland!

Sponsor: Peterhead Port Authority

Peterhead Port Authority said: “We were delighted to renew our sponsorship of one of the Fishing News Awards categories. It is important to take time to recognise and spread awareness of the tremendous efforts, changes and developments that go into making the fishing industry the most successful and sustainable that it can be.

“The awards dinner is a great opportunity to meet up with industry contacts, meet new people and share experiences, whilst enjoying good food and company.”

Under 10m Fisherman Of The Year

Winner: Richard Grains

Shetland-based Richard Grains told Fishing News that it was an ‘honour’ to be named Under-10m Fisherman of the Year for 2023.

Under 10m Fisherman of the Year Richard Grains collects his trophy from Fishing News editor Andy Read.

Nominated for his ‘perseverance and adaptability’, Richard, who skippers the brand-new crabber Valentia LK 21 out of the small port of Collafirth in Northmavine at the north of Shetland mainland, beat West Dorset fisherman Ted Hook to the accolade.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all – I was very surprised,” said Richard. “I felt a bit sorry for Ted Hook – but there were a few Shetlanders, and other people I knew at the ceremony, and I got a big cheer when my name was announced.”

Richard, who described the gala awards ceremony as ‘excellent’, said he wanted to thank his wife Leona, crewman James Johnson, and his parents for all of their support. “Without them you don’t have very much. If you don’t have their support and dedication as well, it doesn’t make it very easy.

“I’d also like to thank everybody who voted for me, and everyone that has helped me over the years.”

Young Fisherman Of The Year

Winner: Harvey Buchan

Eighteen-year-old Harvey Buchan said he was ‘really happy’ to have been named winner of the Fishing News Young Fisherman of the Year award.

Harvey, who fishes on the trawler Favonius PD 17, said he felt quite nervous in the moments leading up to the winner being announced. “I wasn’t sure who was going to win, as I’d heard it was quite close,” he said. However, feelings of nerves were soon replaced by those of joy.

Young Fisherman of the Year Harvey Buchan receiving his award from Lynn Gilmore of category sponsor Seafish.

“I had a great big smile on my face when my name was called. My family all jumped up, and there were a lot of people who I knew there as well all cheering me on.”

Harvey said that he wanted to thank his dad for ‘all the support and patience, and taking the time and showing me what to do’. “I also want to thank the crew of the boat as well for showing me everything they know. I’ve a lot of people to thank, really,” he said.

Describing the event as a ‘really nice evening’, Harvey also used the opportunity to socialise, and continue the celebrations, with some of his fellow nominees.

“Five or six of us met up and we all went to Skipinnish in Aberdeen on the Friday as well. So we all had a couple of days together. It was good fun.

“I’ve got a couple of days off now, so there’s a good celebration to be had yet I think!”

Sponsor: Seafish

Seafish said: “Our purpose at Seafish is to support the seafood industry to thrive, and we have been proud to sponsor the Young Fisherman of the Year award for the last five years.

“Hearing first-hand about the passion, professionalism and talent of all the young skippers and crew nominated in the category was inspiring.

“Harvey Buchan was a worthy winner, and a true ambassador for young people in the industry and their contribution to a thriving seafood sector for the future.”

Port Of The Year

Winner: Kilkeel

Bernie Murphy, Wendy Campbell and Danielle Rooney from Kilkeel with FN editor Andy Read and host Stephen Buchanan.

Harbour master Danielle Rooney said: “We here in Kilkeel harbour are delighted to have received Port of the Year 2023. It is the first time in Kilkeel harbour’s history that we have received such an award, which reflects the hard work of our team.

“Being the busiest fishing harbour in the north of Ireland, we provide an extensive range of services to local and visiting vessels.

“Kilkeel harbour has a thriving industry serving the fishing fleet from slipways to boatbuilders, and this award wouldn’t have been possible without the close working of the harbour authority and the port users.

“We are seeing increasing throughput in our fishmarket, and have a high level of faith in the future of the harbour. We have plans for a major harbour extension, and hope to receive approval for the next stage of the project in the near future.”

Trainee Fisherman Of The Year

Winner: Emma Scott

Emma Scott returned triumphant to South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, with the Fishing News Trainee Fisherman of the Year trophy.

Emma, who works on the Uist-based creeler Isabella CY 464 with her father Iain, told Fishing News that she ‘really didn’t expect to win’.

“I was so nervous,” she said. “There were a lot more people at the awards night than I thought there would be.”

Trainee Fisherman of the Year Emma Scott collecting her trophy from Craig McBurnie of sponsor Sunderland Marine.

Emma, who was joined in Aberdeen by her parents and brother John, said that it was nice to dress up for the occasion, and to see everyone else dressed up smartly too. “The hotel was amazing, and so was the food. I liked it all.”

Despite her success, and receiving many congratulatory messages from the local community and wider industry, it was straight back to work for Emma last week, as she continues on her journey to becoming a skipper.

“I’d just like to thank everyone who voted for me, and my dad for teaching me everything I know,” she said.

As for the coveted trophy, Emma said: “I’ll put into the dashboard on the boat, so everyone can see it!”

Sponsor: Sunderland Marine

Sunderland Marine (which sponsored the category) director Craig McBurnie said: “The Fishing News Awards 2023 was a great success, and enjoyed by all at Sunderland Marine. It was a great celebration of the fishing industry as a whole and the individuals and organisations involved at every level. “Sunderland Marine is proud to have sponsored the Trainee Fisherman of the Year award for another year, and to have had the opportunity to present the award to the worthy winner, Emma Scott.

“Congratulations again to Emma, and to all the nominees, for this recognition of their impressive achievements. It is fantastic to hear about young people who’ve really thrown themselves into the industry, and to see the dedication and passion of these skilled trainees, who represent the future of the industry.”

Service Provider Of The Year

Winner: Brixham Trawler Agents

Kevin Dale and Luke Netherton of Service Provider of the Year Brixham Trawler Agents receiving their award from Andy Read.

For Brixham Trawler Agents (BTA), winning Service Provider of the Year capped another impressive year.

Last year saw a record-breaking £60m-worth of fish sold via BTA’s online auction, a 39% increase on the previous year. The market also saw more boats landing at Brixham, along with a greater number of fish arriving overland, all of which resulted in an increase in the service levels provided by BTA.

Managing director Barry Young was in Aberdeen for the ceremony: “It is great for all of us at BTA to get recognition at the Fishing News Awards. It shows we are still striving to do our best year on year, and we will continue to do so.

“The real thank you goes out to all the staff at BTA, as it is them that work so hard to make us Service Provider of the Year,” he said.

“Our goal is to serve the fishing community as best as we possibly can, and the award helps us recognise that we are doing the right thing!”

The Sustainability Award

Winner: Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation

SSMO chair Alastair Cooper said: “We are delighted. It’s an honour for all our shellfish men, and it’s also great to see Richard Grains recognised as the Under 10m Fisherman of the Year for everything he’s achieved.

Richard Grains (centre) collecting The Sustainability Award on behalf of the SSMO, with Gavin O’Donnell of sponsor The Fishmonger’s Company Fisheries Charitable Trust (left) and host Stephen Buchanan.

“The SSMO runs on a shoestring, but it shows the real progress you can make when you have local control and, most importantly, a community of local fishermen who support the common good and cast an eye to the future.”

SSMO inshore co-ordinator John Robertson added: “I was pretty gobsmacked that we actually won it! We’ve got 106 licensed shellfish fishermen, and it’s a tribute to their desire to protect the stocks of crab, lobster and scallops – not to just fish them out, as we see happening elsewhere. It means we’ve got a strong future fishery and it’s under local control.

“It’s also a reward for the commitment of the SSMO’s volunteer directors, our shellfish scientists at UHI Shetland and the patience and hard work of Carole Laignel, who did this job before me.”

Sponsor: The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust

Gavin O’Donnell, fisheries programme manager at the The Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust, said: “Once again, The Sustainability Award saw a varied and competitive line-up of entries.

“The panel was particularly impressed by the range of issues tackled amongst the nominees, from collaborative fisheries management to the recycling of end of life gear and responding to the shellfish die-offs in the North East. “The quality of entries was incredibly high across the board, and we look forward to following their progress and successes in the coming years.”

Innovation Of The Year

Winner: SHOUT 24/7

The SHOUT 24/7 free confidential mental health support service for fishermen was named Innovation of the Year for 2023 in this new category.

Carol Elliott, for Innovation of the Year winner SHOUT 24/7, with editor Andy Read and host Stephen Buchanan.

The 24 hours a day, seven days a week service was identified by the SeaFit Programme, a joint health and wellbeing initiative between the Seafarers’ Hospital Society and the Fishermen’s Mission, as one which would provide much- needed round-the-clock support for fishermen experiencing mental health issues.

Carol Elliott, SeaFit Programme manager, was at the gala awards ceremony to collect the award. “I am thrilled and humbled at winning the first ever Fishing News Innovation of the Year award for our SHOUT 24/7 mental health support project, especially as it coincided with National Mental Health Awareness week.

“The award represents a collective effort on behalf of the Fishermen’s Mission and the Seafarers’ Hospital Society. SeaFit could not work without the commitment of both charities, the numerous partners, charities and NHS Trusts who come to our events, and the Fishermen’s Mission local port staff in making connections to the fishermen.”

Carol said that she would like to thank ‘everyone who voted, and for their continued belief in the health and wellbeing services SeaFit can offer to the fishing community’.

Boat Of The Year

Winner: Venture IV BF 326 Owner: Mark Lovie Builder: Macduff Shipyards

For the first time, the Boat of the Year category was decided by a panel of judges, chaired by SFF safety officer Derek Cardno and including a range of experts from across the industry, as well as a senior MCA surveyor.

Mark Lovie (centre), skipper and owner of Boat of the Year Venture IV, collecting his award from Derek Cardno (left), safety officer of the SFF and chair of the judging panel.

The judges assessed all of the shortlisted vessels on a range of issues including crew safety, crew comfort, innovation, care of the catch, fuel efficiency and overall build quality.

“It was really heartening,” Derek Cardno said, “for all the judges, to see the efforts made to constantly improve and tweak design and build in all the vessels we looked at.

“Many of the changes made in the new builds were focused on improving crew safety, such as safer fishroom access and innovation in catch processing, reducing the crews’ time on deck, yet improving catch quality. All the vessels we looked at also provided modern living spaces for the crew.

“The panel was also very encouraged to see such a high level of detail going into the new builds around fuel efficiency and the quest to make the sector more environmentally friendly.”

When it came to totting up the scores, Mark Lovie’s boat Venture IV came out top – although it was a close-run thing.

Boat of the Year Venture IV.

The comments across the judging panel, however, were very positive for the Venture IV. Reasons for the Venture IV’s score included its revolutionary bow design, developed by skipper Mark Lovie with the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University, Macduff Ship Design and Macduff Shipyards.

Also impressing the judges was a ballasted box keel that makes the vessel much more comfortable in the challenging deepwater fishery west of Scotland for which it was built. The panel was also very impressed at the level of detail around the design for crew safety and welfare. A larger fish hold makes work below deck simpler too, with lower box stacks, and tweaks to the design of the huge working deck make working there both safer and more comfortable for the crew. The overall finish on the vessel – the largest ever completed by Macduff Shipyards – was deemed to be ‘excellent’.

Matthew Watt of Macduff said: “The shipyard is delighted that the Venture IV won Boat
of the Year. The vessel was our largest new build to date and took a huge effort from start to finish, with our team and trusted sub-contractors all working to their full.

“We would like to thank Mark Lovie and partners for building with Macduff, and also thank the Fishing News Awards panel.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: Barrie Deas

After a career in the industry spanning five decades, Barrie Deas retired as chief executive of the NFFO last month.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Barrie Deas.

He joined the federation in 1985 as assistant chief executive, and stepped up to the top job in 1995, leading the NFFO through 28 turbulent years. He was awarded an OBE for services to the fishing industry in 2008.

Barrie Deas said: “It has been my honour to work for this wonderful, complex, diverse and ever-changing industry, for so many years.

“I am so pleased to have received this important recognition. Thank you to all involved.”

Sponsor: Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association

Mike Park, chief executive of the SWFPA, said: “Once again it was pleasure to see so many worthwhile recognitions on the night.

“We were especially pleased to see the award for lifetime achievement go to Barrie Deas, who has committed most of his working life to representing the interests of fishermen throughout the wider UK. Barrie has been a friend and colleague for more years than many of us care to remember.

“The awards night demonstrates just how much this industry has to offer the next generation of fishermen – a testament to all involved in making it happen. Long may it continue.”

Win a bottle of gin!

The celebratory evening for the Fishing News Awards may be over but that’s not the end!

We saved our final raffle prize for a Fishing News reader – enter our giveaway for your chance to win a bottle of Isle of Barra Distillers Gold Cave Batch No 2 Gin!

The second release in the distillery’s series of limited-edition cask-aged gins, Gold Cave has been aged in an ex-sherry cask for six months. This year’s run produced 1,417 bottles – a cask of which the distillery generously donated to be raffled at the awards.

To enter the giveaway, click here.

The closing date is Sunday, 4 June. The winner’s name will then be drawn at random. Terms and conditions can be found here.

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%!