Fifteen years ago, Anne Hornigold had no experience or knowledge of the fishing industry.
Since then, she has helped establish a fishing school for apprentices, influenced legislation changes at government level and continues to raise the profile of fishing with top industry organisations.
And this week she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to education in the Sea Fishing Industry.
Anne, chief executive of the Whitby and District Fishing Industry Training School, told the Gazette she was gobsmacked and thrilled, despite admitting she fell into the role by accident.
She said: “I went on holiday and when I got back there was the letter saying would I like to accept - silly question really.
“I had to really frantically send off a letter saying ‘yes please’ and it has been hard not to speak about it. I didn’t even tell my family.”
The MBE is in recognition of Anne’s role in the training of young apprentices and also providing further courses for established fishermen.
It started in 2000 while working with the then Whitby Business Development Agency at St Hilda’s Business Centre.
It was approached by fisherman Arnold Locker who asked what could be done about the lack of new blood coming into the fishing industry and Anne was asked by her boss to set up a working party.
Two years later the fishing school was set up taking apprentices from all over the country.
They are trained in basic sea survival, health and safety, first aid and awareness at sea before getting practical experience.
However, it became apparent that the venture wouldn’t be sustainable on its own so the school started running commercial courses.
It now runs refresher courses and higher level sessions such as engineering watchkeeping, radio courses and day-skipper and offshore courses for yachts.
There are seven full time members of staff at the school and eight part-time tutors.
In addition to that, Anne now represents Whitby and the fishing industry at government level.
She lobbied the powers that be over a legal loophole surrounding self-employed fishermen and ended up getting a change in the apprenticeship act getting pushed through the House of Lords and Commons.
But it is the role with the young fishermen that Anne relishes the most.
She said: “There have been lots of things we do that makes us proud but one of the things I do is oversee the pastoral care team.
“One of the best bits is when they have left the fishing school and get in touch to let us know how they are progressing.
“With some of them, we have turned their lives around. Some had little prospects for the future but they are now skippers, earning good money, are married with children.
“Some come back to Whitby for their holidays and say they thought it was hard and strict but it was brilliant.
“There are horrible things to deal with if we have to sack someone, but the good bits are wonderful.
“I have worked hard but so have the staff behind me.”