Longest-serving Chief Islander gains recognition for environmental work

James Glass appointed MBE in 2023 New Year Honours List

HE Governor Nigel Phillips is pleased to announce the following New Year 2023 Honours appointment as endorsed by His Majesty The King, which was published in the Overseas and International Honours list on Saturday, 31st December 2022:

  • Mr James Patrick Glass, Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha is appointed MBE for Services to the Marine Environment of Tristan da Cunha.

James Glass is being recognised for his dedicated involvement in driving forward the establishment of the internationally acknowledged Tristan da Cunha Marine Protection Zone (MPZ) that was officially announced in October 2020. This zone covers 90% of Tristan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and totals almost 700,000km2 of strictly protected ocean. This was a massive achievement and huge step towards the UK Government’s objective of protecting the world’s oceans. James is also heavily involved in the wider marine conservation, leading on projects to gather crucial data to monitor the marine environment and to develop protective measures for the various species.

With over forty years of expert marine knowledge, James has contributed greatly to the sustainability of the Tristan Lobster fishery, which brings in over half of the island’s income. The lobster fishery is Marine Stewardship Council-certified, due to a great extent of his work.

In addition to his outstanding contribution in establishing the MPZ and the Lobster fishery, James has been an invaluable figure of inspiration and leadership to the people of Tristan having served on the island Council for over 40 years and is currently serving his fifth term as Chief Islander.

James commented:

Although surprised, I am honoured to receive such a distinguished award. I first went to sea tagging lobster at the age of 16 and since then have been involved with the Tristan fishery and many other conservation projects including setting up and managing Tristan’s MPZ.

In 2017 my wife and I had the privilege to be guests at the United Nations in New York, where my grandson Kieran Glass represented the island and the wider UK family before the General Assembly. Kieran was among children from UNESCO’s marine World Heritage Sites who pledged to world leaders that they would protect their ocean environments. I am proud that I continue to honour his pledge.

In the future I hope my contribution to Tristan’s conservation will help deal with the impact of climate change, which should in turn help safeguard the species which live here, and the people who depend on them.

The photo left shows James in the Tristan da Cunha Council Chamber on 1st December 2022 when Sean Burns was sworn in as Administrator, taking over from Chief Islander James as he complete another stint as Acting Administrator.

A profile of Tristan da Cunha Chief Islander James Glass MBE

James Glass married to Felicity with two children was born in Stanley, Falkland Islands, on 20th January 1961. His mother Maria died on 10th April 1962 and his father Wilson and sister Anne return to UK, where James was adopted by Ken and Emily Rogers (Ken was James' mother's brother) James return to Tristan with Ken and then went back to the UK. During the period 1966 – 1969 James attended the Fawley Primary School, Southampton, UK and on returning to Tristan went to St Mary’s School until he left aged 15 in 1976.

On leaving school James was, employed by Tristan Investments Limited the company holding the concession to fish for spiny lobster around Tristan da Cunha group as a Sea Fisheries Observer to carry out the sampling program on which scientific assessment of the stocks was based. He first went to sea on the Tristania II on 5th September 1976, transferred to the MV Melody and came off on the 18th December during that time he tagging 30,000 lobsters between the four islands. James was then hooked as a seaman, and appointed a Sea Fisheries Officer in 1983, when size limits were first introduced.

He was attached to the Sea Fisheries Research Institute in Cape Town for research training in 1984, sailing on the Sardinops where he was involved in a lobster tagging program, in 1989 he accompanied a team of research divers at the Tristan group on an underwater survey as a diver and guide.

In 1982 at the age of 21 he was elected as an Island Councillor.

James Glass and his wife Felicity meet Governor-Elect Dr Philip Rushbrook
at the 2019 Tristan Association Annual Gathering held at the Southamptpon Holiday Inn.

In 1991 James took a contract with the Falkland Islands Government as a Sea Fisheries Observer in the Fisheries Department. Here he was responsible for monitoring and sampling of catches, reporting on vessel movements, and noting processing techniques on board vessels of numerous nationalities, using techniques including bottom trawling, midwater trawling and jigging. He was involved in projects on fishing gear technology, fish and squid parasites, and fish identification and was chosen as cruise scientist on board the fisheries research vessel MV Protector for three months. James stayed and worked in the Falklands Fisheries Department until 1993.

On returning to Tristan in 1993, James established the Natural Resources Department (Conservation & Fisheries. The Department was responsible for advising the Administrator on all aspects of Fisheries and Conservation. Fisheries duties include licensing and monitoring of foreign fishing vessels, setting TACs, boarding and inspection of vessels, Sea Fishery Observer/Officer duties, collection of research data, and operation of the 38ft patrol boat (Wave Dancer).

As a Conservation Officer, duties include inspection of nature reserves and World Heritage Sites, started the first ringing census of seabird populations at Nightingale Island, monitoring whale sightings and stranding’s, guiding tourist visits (including the landing of the first tourist at Nightingale Island from the little red ship Explorer), and assisting external researchers. A position he held for 14 years until it broke off to become a separate department. Although still a Conservation Officer – since 1993.

In 1994 he was elected as Chief Islander, the youngest in the history of Tristan and a position he held until 2003 (serving three consecutive terms). He also stood in as Acting Administrator for Tristan from January - May 1999, December 1999 - February 2000, October 2000 - January 2001, March 2001 – September 2001 (including during the Hurricane in May), January - March 2003 and November 2022.

In 1997 – 1998 James attended the North Atlantic Fisheries College, in the Shetland Islands Scalloway, U.K and was awarded a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Fisheries Science and Technology, July 1998. He completed a SCUBA diver course, qualifying as a professional diver HSE part IV at the Fort William Underwater Centre in Scotland in July 1998, and a Coxswain Fisheries, Fast Rescue Boat Operations Course Content Based On International Maritime Organisation (IMO) STCW 95).

In 2001 James co-authored the Inaccessible Island Nature Reserve Management Plan with Dr Peter Ryan now Prof Ryan. (Now Gough and Inaccessible Island Management Plan).

In 2010 James along with his staff from the Fisheries Department completed the following training; Hygiene & Basic Principles of HACCP, HACCP for Supervisors on the Factory Floor, Pre-Requisite Programmes, A Practical Approach to HACCP, Basic Microbiology for the Non-Microbiologist, Internal Auditing – Principles and Practices, Lobster Taxonomy, and Legislation at the Swift – Micro Laboratories, Cape Town, South Africa. This was in order to set up the Competent Authority, and become assessment Inspector for the Competent Authority in order for the Tristan Lobster fishery to apply for MSC certification status which was awarded in 2011.

In 2011 -2014 James Completed his M.Sc. at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology - Cape Town - South Africa, his thisis was on the The Fishery and Biology of the Rock Lobster Jasus tristani at the Tristan da Cunha Island group. The first resident islander to obtained a University degree.

In 2017 he was guide for the National Geographic team that carried out a research trip at the Tristan Group, and he also visited the University of Santa Barbara California in the USA for several months to see how an MPA operated within a fishery in 2017.

In 2017-2019 he received training with CEFAS and MMO in the UK in preparation of implementing an MPA at Tristan by 2020, he also completed his PST, and PSSR in South Africa in March 2019 a requirement for him to work on vessels within the EU.

James Glass presents a Tristan flag to the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle
during an event in Speaker's Quarters in May 2022
to celebrate the creation of Tristan da Cunha's Marine Protection Zone.

In 2019 he was elected as Chief Islander for a fourth term, and on 13th November 2020 declared Tristan’s Marine Protection Zone (MPZ), covering 91% of Tristan’s EEZ.

In 2021 during April-August James was the Marine Observer during the Gough Island Restoration Programme.

In 2022 James was re-elected for a fifth term which ends in 2025.

James has attended several conferences and workshops in the Falklands, Ascension, Isle of Man, UK etc, and is one of the most if not the most travelled Islander visiting numerous countries including South Africa, Namibia, UK, USA, Norway, Singapore, Falkland Is, St Helena Is, Ascension Is, Shetland Is, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, Tasmania and Chile.

He has also co-authored more than a dozen scientific publications and is a Eucharistic Minister for the Catholic Church.