Conservation Conversation


This issue’s Conservation Conversation is a little different from previous issues. Instead of focusing on a new member of staff, we’ve finally caught up with Managing Director Deryck Steer. Deryck will be stepping down from JNCC in September after 40 years’ public service. He has been at the helm of JNCC since 1998 – long enough, he says!


Managing Director Deryck Steer © JNCCQ. Which species inspired you as a child?


A. Human beings, because they are the most complex species. As the youngest child, I had the advantage of being able to observe many interactions in my family and that fascinated me.


Q. What concerns you most about the natural world in the next two decades?


A. The ability of the human race to come to grips with the true value of natural resources on a global basis. There may still be hope if we face up to the impact we are making.


Q. What would you do with a £1 million grant for nature conservation?


A. Buy a new yacht! But seriously, I’d invest in increasing skills and awareness in the UK Overseas Territories, which contain more biodiversity than important people are willing to admit.


Q. What do you do when you’re not saving the world?


A. I have a passion for mending and building things, that includes boats, cars and houses. I then get pleasure out of using what I’ve made – it’s twice the pleasure.


Q. What have you contributed to JNCC?


A. I hope I’ve brought some order to the way JNCC conducts its business and the sense of community within the organisation that’s portrayed by people helping each other through good and bad times.  I think JNCC’s now recognised and respected as being a key adviser that can work with a whole range of bodies from governments to campaigning organisations.


And it’s not all been about JNCC, I’ve really enjoyed helping the National Biodiversity Network get established.


Q. What has been your proudest moment at JNCC?


A. There’s been so much to do….. The creation of the company was probably the big moment for me. It took five years to negotiate required changes to legislation and for the first time we were one community. 97% of the staff chose to join the Company and that was beyond my dreams.


Q. Who is your human hero in the natural world?


A. Our Chair, Peter Bridgewater! No really, in my natural world it’s Robert M Pirsig because of his thinking on values and quality. And he loves boats.


Q. What are your hopes for the future of JNCC?


A. Firstly, that together with the other parties who have an interest in the marine environment, we find a way of achieving sustainable use of our seas and rise above the petty boundary issues.

Dinas Head/Pembrokeshire ©Deryck Steer

Secondly, that the skills and expertise we are valued for continue to be respected and used to inform a more balanced order.


Q. What is your favourite place?


A. Dinas Head, Pembrokeshire. I’ve been going there for most of my life, four to five times a year.


Q. What’s your pet hate in nature conservation?


A. Those who over-egg the science, continually look backwards and won’t admit they don’t really know what’s going on. Harsh, isn’t it!


Q. Desert Island disc?


A. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning to fly. It’s a song that drives me on ….and on………and on.


Q. Place you’d most like to visit?


A. Maine. I’ve a fascination with sailing boats that originated from that part of the States.


Q. When I’m reincarnated, I’m coming back as a …..?


A. A peregrine falcon. That way I’d be able to continue to observe Dinas Head.