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  • Christine Grosart

"Did you see them?"

The drive from Oban to Peterhead is a pain. Let me explain.

I’m a trustee of the charity Ghost Fishing UK and we were surprised and delighted to have been nominated for the Fishing News Awards in Aberdeen that week.

Not one to turn down a posh party, I booked the time off work and had a few days spare in Scotland beforehand.

Seizing the opportunity, I booked my VHF short range radio exam in Peterhead sailing academy while I was in the area. It had been a long time coming as the exam centres were slow to re-open after covid.

With that passed and out of the way, I found myself in Peterhead at a loose end. Peterhead is one the most significant fishing ports in Scotland, if not the UK, so I thought I’d go and do a bit of ‘fisheries liaison’ for the charity, after I took on the role among other roles, last year.

After a brief visit to Peterhead, in the pouring rain, I decided to make the most if this rare free time in Scotland and head on up to Fraserburgh.

This port had been super supportive of our charity and I was met by Tommy the harbourmaster and Jill Smith, who took an awful lot of time out to talk to me, answer my questions and understand more about the charity.

It was during this conversation that Tommy said “We’ll see you at the Fishing News Awards then on Thursday!” We would indeed.

“And the expo at the weekend….”

Pardon what?

“The expo. You are going aren’t you?

It is THE fishing event of the year. You HAVE to be there!”

I hung my head in shame. I had no idea what the Scottish Skipper Expo was or had even heard of it. It began the day after the Fishing News Awards and all our expo stand stuff was in Cornwall with Fred Nunn.

I promised I’d buy a ticket and go as a delegate, to at least start some conversations.

The rain continued to pour and I went back to my car and phoned Fred to tell him about my successful meeting with the harbour. I also told him about the expo.

“Well, I was going to come up to the awards anyway…” said Fred (news to me) “So I could chuck all the expo stuff in the van….if you can get a stand?”

A few manic phone calls later and we had a stand secured. We were going!

A chilled posh frock evening had turned into a frantic 3 day event.

Dolly our social media lady was on her way up by plane. We stuffed her into a taxi so Fred and I could spend the day setting up the stand at the P&J live exhibition centre, a seriously impressive venue next to Aberdeen airport.

Then it was poshing up time. Most of us had forgotten to scrub up after 2 years of covid and ‘not going out’.

We were piped in by some bagpipes and there was no shortage of fizz, with a truly electric atmosphere.

The food was exquisite and all locally sourced. We were joined by a gaggle of Ghost Fishing UK divers who came to represent the charity and before long, the winners were announced by the hilariously funny Des Clarke.

I’d had far too much champagne and prosecco, convinced that a nomination was as far as we would go. So both to my delight and horror, Ghost Fishing UK was announced as the winner of the Sustainability Award.

The walk to the stage was far longer that it should have been and we posed briefly for photos (thank goodness there was no need for a speech!) and ran back to my table as fast as possible, treading on some poor guy in my heels as I went….

Gobsmacked, all eyes were now on us for the next two days at the Skipper expo. Our award was in pride of place on our stand. Loads of people we had never met came to congratulate us and it was a huge ice breaker, enabling them to come and chat to us.

We didn’t meet an ounce of negativity from the fishing community and over the two days, Fred and I had all the conversations, in person, with all the people we had wanted to meet over the last several years.

Another social evening of superb food and drink had been laid on for the exhibitors on the Friday and the Saturday was a slightly quieter day at the expo, allowing us to meet and talk to key people and organisations properly.

It is so important for our charity to engage with the fishing community in a positive way and this event has shown that the fishing community care very much about the environment they live and work in and want it to thrive.

About the author

Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels.

She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK.

She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.

In 2009 she visited the far reaches of Wookey Hole cave and still holds the British female cave diving depth record.

In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration. She holds the end of the line in several caves in Croatia and France.

In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.


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