Take a leaf out of my book: Anne Freeman

This month marks our third careers blog, 'Take a leaf out of my book', where we ask people who work in an environmental area to write about their career journey to date: highs and any low points, challenges and accomplishments.

I’m Deputy Director for Domestic Fisheries and Reform at Defra. It’s a fabulous, wide-ranging job, covering policy on how we manage our fisheries now and after we leave the Common Fisheries Policy.

Speaking about Flood Re in China

There’s a heavy EU Exit focus at present. Amongst other things, I am

responsible for the Fisheries Bill, stopping scallop wars, allocating fishing quotas, licensing fishing boats, managing discards, recreational angling policy, lots of stakeholder management and engagement with the Devolved Administrations. Never a dull moment!

My career has been very varied. The experience that variety has brought has played a key

part in getting me to where I am. I have gone from AO to Deputy Director through every

grade, largely through spotting opportunities and sometimes taking risks (e.g. going for roles

outside my comfort zone). I’ve loved pretty much every role and learned from each of them

and from those I’ve worked with. Whether that was about subject matter (e.g. who would

have thought that septic tanks can impact water quality, or milk is one of the worst pollutants

if it gets into water courses?) or new skills (leading teams, improving personal resilience, or

how to work with scientists and stakeholders).

At a meeting with Michael Gove and Hastings fishermen
With Michael Gove and Hastings fishermen

I ended up doing roles with an environmental tinge courtesy of the machinery of government

change when Defra was created. I started in the Intervention Board as an Administrative

Officer paying whisky export refunds and then administering some other of the rather

unpalatable aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy, including milk quotas and beef

mountains. All of these schemes were introduced because the original objectives of the

CAP (to ensure food supply and a guaranteed income for farmers) had unintended

consequences (creating surpluses). This experience in delivery has been helpful during my

career. Ensuring our policies are deliverable and will have the impact that we intend has

been a key lesson.

Visiting England’s biggest fishing port in Newlyn
Visiting England’s biggest fishing port in Newlyn

I worked in the European Commission for a year, which helped me in a number of

subsequent roles about working and negotiating in a multi-national environment. Again, this

has been a key skill as we cannot deliver our environmental objectives on our own.

In MAFF/Defra, my roles have covered policy areas as diverse as cattle identification,

organic farming and water quality. I’ve done roles that were more delivery or corporate in

focus, like delivering affordable flood insurance, or helping to set up the Marine Management

Organisation, or sponsoring bodies such as Natural England and Kew Gardens. All these

have helped me develop a rounded set of skills that I can take to any role: leadership,

problem-solving, analysis, working with Ministers, navigating the Whitehall machine etc.

In a number of these (including my current role), a significant challenge has been to manage

the trade-offs that have to be made. So currently we are grappling with how to make fishing

truly sustainable – environmentally, economically and socially. Its been important to set a

clear trajectory (through the Fisheries Bill) and then work with industry, stakeholders and

scientists openly but carefully, whilst managing expectations about pace of change and


If you want to get in touch with Anne to ask any further questions, you can email her at anne.freeman@defra.gov.uk