Shetland Fishermen’s Association chairman Leslie Tait has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list for services to the industry.
The 63-year-old from Trondra, spent 34 years at sea and has been chairman of the SFA for the past eight years. He had earlier been chairman of the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation (SFPO) for eight years.
Reacting to the news he heaped praise on the fishermen themselves saying they were more important than any personal honour.
Mr Tait said: “It was a huge surprise to me to learn I would be receiving an MBE. I regard it as an honour for the industry in Shetland generally rather than for me personally.
“As chair of the SFA I am a figurehead, and somebody has to take on that role. But in the background, and far more important than me, are the fishermen themselves who over the years have sacrificed a great deal to ensure that the industry in Shetland has a future.
“That’s important, not just for the economy but for the wellbeing of smaller communities around the islands which without fishing might well wither and die.”
The SFPO’s chief executive Brian Isbister said he was delighted to hear the news and said Mr Tait had been “a stalwart of the Shetland fishing industry for many, many years.”
“A highly respected and able fisherman, he has taken his knowledge and understanding of the industry into the corridors of power in Europe, the UK and Scotland to Shetland’s great benefit.
“He has an immense passion for the industry in Shetland and in his quiet-spoken way has been a powerful advocate for it.”
Mr Tait was skipper of the 75ft whitefish boat Harmony (LK 63), which he bought in 1983 and decommissioned in 2002.
After decommissioning, he attended the NAFC in order to upgrade his qualifications with the intention of returning to sea.
Upon attending the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway he was offered a post as lecturer in navigation and seamanship, a post he still holds.
“I hadn’t intended to come ashore, but due to the opportunity offered by NAFC and family reasons, and the fact that I was able to keep in contact with the industry, with young men coming through and learning the ropes, it seemed the right move to make,” he said.
“Those were hard times at the fishing. However, much progress has been made and it’s good to have some positive news about the industry after so many years in the doldrums.
“We have major challenges ahead, especially with the discard ban, but I think some of the powers that be in Europe who set this legislation are now starting to realise that it is ill-founded in its present form.
“So rather than dismiss Europe, we need to get in there and convince them that there are other ways of doing things, especially for a small community like Shetland which is so dependent on fishing and has a proud history of seafaring.”