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Commercial Fishing



Obituary of former SFF president, Alan Coghill. Alan Coghill, the former CEO of Orkney Fish Producers Organisation, Secretary of the Orkney Fishermen’s Association as well as ex – SFF President passed away on 31st December 2022 aged 82. A lifelong champion of the fishing industry, his presence and knowledge will be greatly missed by not only those he directly served in Orkney but the wider Scottish Industry.

Although Alan became synonymous with the fishing industry in Orkney, he was born in Shetland into a family more linked to the farming world rather than the sea and in his early years would spend much of his spare time helping out on his uncle’s farm.  His career began with a position in the Shetland Islands Council working with the Roads Department where he remained until the opportunity arose in 1970 to move to Orkney to take up a role in the Orkney Islands Council Economic Development Department. It was through this role that Alan came into contact with the fishing industry and I don’t suppose even he imagined at that point that it would define the next 50 years of his life, indeed he would frequently comment during the Brexit debate and negotiations that followed he remembered what it was like before we joined the EU. We don’t know whether much attention was paid to the industry within the council before Alan started, however he must’ve seen something and soon after began his odyssey to develop the Orkney industry into one of the top per-forming sectors in the country for both shellfish and whitefish. He was instrumental in the setting up of the Orkney Fisheries Association in 1972, where he took on the part time role of secretary alongside his other work with the Council, a post that he held until he retired from the council to begin a full-time role with Orkney Fisheries Association. During this period Alan worked tirelessly for the development of the industry and through his dual role was able to create the conditions working with the Council to provide loans and grants to aspiring young skippers such as Tam Harcus, whose family now have the only remaining large whitefish vessel left on the islands. This allowed the Orkney whitefish fleet to flourish and expand as new fishing opportunities opened up and at its peak in the during the early 1990’s Orkney had a fleet of 14 large whitefish vessels including the Norfjordr, Orkney Reiver, Vesterfjord, Keila, Rivo I, Inga Ness and indeed it seemed at the time that every other week there was a new-build coming out of Campbeltown bound for Orkney. Following the introduction of the FQA system Alan and the fishermen of Orkney established the Orkney Fish Producers Organisation Ltd in 1999 which enabled the fleet to take local control of the management of their quota. Alan’s hard work was not limited to the whitefish sector a strong advocate for inshore and shellfish fisheries which had for many years been the back-bone of the Orkney industry Alan always made sure that Orkney’s voice was front and centre in these areas because with two factories and some of the top-earning crab boats in the UK to represent he saw this sector as vital to the Orkney industry’s future.

Alan was of the opinion that fishermen’s voices needed to be heard and as in many cases they could not be present to do it themselves he saw it as his role to deliver their message and defend their interests which he did on many occasions at local, national and international level. He was a founder member of West of Four Fisheries Management group set up to give a unified voice to the West Coast industry which he saw Orkney as very much part of. He was also heavily involved in the North Western Waters (Regional) Advisory Council going on to chair its West of Scotland Working Group.

Alan’s hard work and dedication to the fishing industry was recognised throughout the country, and in 2010 he was elected as the President of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation upon which he resigned from his role with the OFA after almost 40 years involvement. He continued his as President of role until 2014. Alan retired from his role as CEO of Orkney Producers Organisation in late 2020, although despite this remained keen to know what was going on in the industry. He spent his remaining years with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Alan provided invaluable leadership for the fishing industry through its many challenges over the years and that he always strived to build a sustainable industry for the future. He will be deeply missed.