My Love For The Fishermen’s Mission

At the time of writing this blog, that was my view. I was sat on the most comfortable piece of rock I could find, watching the sea. Watching the sea involves all of our senses, you can see the waves, you hear the rolling waves and then the crashing onto the shoreline. You can smell that delicate algae aroma, as the sea brings in the seaweed, and the feel of the cool water and the damp sand and the taste of the salty air, which always makes me thirsty. (Thats my excuse for either a G&T or a cider, and I’m sticking to it!)

In the past month, I’ve been very honoured to have been made an Association member of The Fishermen’s Mission, a charity which is so very dear to me, and on this day I managed to be a part of the 135th AGM, via the wonders of modern technology. Its been a rough year for all charity organisations during this pandemic, so hearing the amazing stories of fundraising and support is something quite heart warming.

Also, hearing first hand struggles from fishermen regarding not only Covid 19, but the shocking winter gales and political upheaval that has had a toll on not only their own livelihood but also the lives of their families. Reflecting also on the lives that have been lost at sea, young men who went out to do their job, and never came home. Its a sobering thought that fishing is still the most dangerous job in the UK during peacetime.

To that end, I do believe that fishermen, women included, don’t get the respect that they truly deserve.

People may wonder why I am so passionate about “the fish mish”. I am so fortunate to know many fishermen since becoming a fishmonger, and I learn about how the fish gets to the counter, and how it gets to our plates. Without them I wouldn’t have the career that I have and love, a job which I look forward to getting up for and trying to encourage more people to eat the very fish which is caught by the fishermen who need our support.

I heard so many inspiring stories from the ones who were awarded the fundraising awards. From a kayaker who raised over ยฃ14,000, to a fisherman to set a weight loss goal and raised money at the same time, buisnesses who gave freely of their equipment to help to renovate the only Fishermen’s Mission shop in the country.

The Fishermen’s Mission is celebrating its 140th year this year. The lovely Kirsty Masters has set the challenge of 140miles in May. You can sign up to that, via the Fishermens Mission website, and you’ll even get a medal at the end!

In that past 2 years, I’ve done a walk from Stoke, where my fish counter was, to Grimsby, which incidentally was just over 140miles. I attempted the Yorkshire 3 Peaks with my uncle to try and raise money for the Fish Mish.

This year I set the challenge of losing 9 stone, inspired by the amazing example of Darren, the fisherman from Brixham. I’m still working away at that, losing 2.5 stone at this current time, but I need to do more.

A challenge is something which pushes you to your limits and then that little extra. I can’t swim. I have all the grace of a floundering hippo, and that’s probably unkind on hippos! I had an awful swimming instructor when I was in primary school, who scared the life out of me. My abundance of curly hair did not want to go in a swimming cap either. Being knocked by waves off a Cornish beach about 30 years ago didnt help matters. The incoming wave knocked me down as I braved the water, only to be knocked back down under the water as it went back again, also I’m ever so slightly self conscious about being in a swimming costume. So, what challenge do I want to push myself to do? Learn to swim!! I’m actually laughing as I’m typing this, thinking “really???” but then I’m sat here, looking at the waves thinking, “yes, really”.

Fishermen, their families and the community they are a part of do so much, why not give something back. If this past year has taught us anything, its to support those who need to be supported.

Please check out The Fishermen’s Mission website, as well as the Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn too.

You can follow me too on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, just look for the Girlyfishmonger ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

What The Fishing Industry Means To Me

First of all dear readers, followers and friends, this blog, as with all my previous blogs, is purely my own thoughts. I am very fortunate to have friends and acquaintances who are both fishermen and fish merchants, who have their own thoughts and feelings based around the decisions taken regarding the fish industry. I totally respect those thoughts and feelings, and to some extent can understand both points of view. After all, I’m just a fishmonger who loves all aspects of the industry.

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The fishing industry is vital to the career that I love being a part of. I shy away from calling it a ‘job’. That always implies to me something that is a bit of a chore, get up and get it done. A career to me means constantly learning, adapting to various challenges, sometimes pushing past your own comfort zones. It is not always easy, but when you reflect on where you have come from and what you have achieved, you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. So, the fishing industry means more to me than ‘just’ receiving my weekly wage.

7 years ago this June, I embarked on the first step on this career, and never envisioned being where I am now. Nor, having experienced many fantastic moments along the way. I have met so many fishermen from all over the UK, and they all have 2 things in common. 1. Their deep love for their craft and industry. That is very evident in the passionate and emotive feelings in the past few years, if not longer, with regard to how the industry is viewed and dealt with. 2. Every single fisherman I have met so far, have left me forever grateful for the way they have treated me. To have fishermen, who have been toiling at sea for decades, have me jump aboard their beautiful vessels, show me how they take them out to sea, even showing me how to tie off nets, inspires me.

I think that anyone who hasn’t been to sea, and I mean more than just going on a cruise, can appreciate fully what the men and women do when they go to sea to bring in the catch. I count myself within that as well. Watching television series such as ‘Cornwall: This Fishing Life’ or ‘Trawlermen’ , can only give us a glimpse of the seriously hard work they do. I’ve sat aboard a beautiful trawler (Amity II) in Peterhead, the most North Easterly point of the UK, and aboard the equally beautiful Scalloper (Van Djick) in Brixham, spoken to both Skippers and they are so humble and matter of fact about what they do. I can sit and listen to their experiences all day, and leaves me wanting to do my best, to the best of my ability, every day.

I visited the ‘old’ Peterhead Fish Market, given a guided tour by another skipper, and totally amazed by seeing the sheer amount of fish, the rows of kits, amounting to kilos and tonnes of fish, with fish merchants, representing almost the whole of the UK, bidding for the varying species. The auction can be over in minutes, the speed of the auctioneers, the bidding, the immediate hustle and bustle of the fish being dragged off the market floor. I now get to do that 3 days a week with the boss. Walking on to Grimsby Fish Market, looking at the amount of fish, differing species, listening to the auctioneers shouting out the prices and the merchants dropping their tallies on the fish they have successfully bid for, then dragging the kits off to the truck with a metal hook. I get the same feeling on Grimsby Market, as I did that day on Peterhead Market. I have also witnessed the Brixham Fish Market auction, as I was given a guided tour by Barry Young, seeing kits of Cuttles and John Dory, beautiful Gurnard. Every kit of fish tells a story, whether its landed in Grimsby, Peterhead, Brixham or Newlyn. The trawler, the skipper, crew have had the experience of bringing that amount of fish in, and I think its a story that deserves to be told and championed.

As we sit and eat our fish supper, get creative with our own cooking, or watch a chef on television preparing fish, we probably don’t give much thought to how that fish has been caught and landed. Then, sadly, sometimes, we are reminded just how perilous the job is, when there are reports of men lost at sea, vessels that sink with all hands on deck. The volunteers of the RNLI and the coastguards do their utmost to rescue these souls, but sometimes the Sea has the last word and the men remain with the sea. These men will have family, friends and mean a lot to their communities, and sometimes these men are younger than myself. Irrespective of age, these men leave the harbour to simply ‘do their job’, but never return. Fishing, even in this age of modern technology, is still the most dangerous job in peacetime. All around the UK fishing coast, there are thought provoking monuments to fishermen, mostly looking out to sea, a stark reminder of the sacrifice that they and their families make.

The fishing industry is a very proud, passionate and historic industry. It has built the beautiful towns and villages that have inspired writer, painters and poets. It should come as no surprise then, that fishermen will defend their heritage, and stand up for their way of life that has stood for generations.

The fishing industry deserves to be respected. Fishermen deserve our utmost respect, whether we fully understand the industry or not, even if we eat fish or not. Do I believe that enough is done to help us to understand the industry? No, its almost as if the fishing industry is pushed aside, and forget that the men and women continue to work after the tourist seasons end. We are quite happy to eat the fish landed, but know next to nothing about the incredible journey its taken to get to the plate.

I have a lot to learn, go back a decade and I would refuse to walk past a fish counter in a supermarket because I ‘hated’ it. Even now, I probably don’t eat as much fish as I could, but the whole industry means so much more to me, and I for one am very proud to play a small role in this historic industry

Em

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My unreserved thanks to the many fishermen and their families that I have come to know, and all friends within the industry, whether we work on dry land or lumpy waters.

Much love, as always to The Fishermen’s Mission, for the amazing work that they continue to do in these times, to support fishermen, families and communities.

The Girlyfishmonger 2020 Review

Ohhh, where to start!

On a very positive note, on December 26th, it marked my 6th month of working for Premier Seafood in Great Grimsby! I know, 6 months! Time truly does fly when you’re having fun.

At a time when customers I was serving at Tarbetts Fishmongers were either losing their jobs, or unsure from one day to the next what was happening, I left Tarbetts on the Wednesday, started to work in Grimsby on the Friday! Very strange and surreal times indeed.

The start of 2020 was extremely tough for me. I didn’t realise myself, just how depression had raised its ugly head again, until one night I left the shop in Chapel Allerton, stood in the middle of the street and cried. I sobbed until I ached. I talked to my mum on the phone, adamant that I was giving up totally on the fish industry, quitting my job and distance myself totally from anything to do with fish. I told myself I was useless, rubbish at my job, nobody wanted anything to do with me, and those who did just used me for what they could get out of me. I would go to work, laugh, smile, chat to customers, then go home, shower, eat and bed. I didn’t sleep until a couple of hours before my alarm would be going off and I’d repeat the day. My brain had had enough.

I’m not ashamed of depression and anxiety, no one should. That night I posted a message on my Facebook, the amount of messages and phone calls I recieved was unreal.

I won’t forget the kindness that the guys at Tarbetts showed me, and generally kept me going. If you read this blog guys, thank you so very much.

I knew something had to change. I had met Nathan Godley of Premier Seafood, through the wonder of social media. He had even given me career advice when news broke about fish counters being closed, as well as supplying my fish for a fishmongering demonstration I did in Grimsbys Freeman Street Market. I went one afternoon to Riby Street for a chat about a job position. I didn’t dare get my hopes up, Julie was so lovely as well as Mark and Caz. Anyone who reads my blogs knows how much I love Great Grimsby, the history and industry. So, to say it would be a dream to work there would be an understatement. By the time I had driven home to Leeds, I received a message to say, come and work for us. I’ve never handed in a resignation in my whole working life, so it was difficult, feelings of letting people down was hard. It was never a decision that I took lightly, but for me was the right one.

I started working for Premier Seafood on Friday 26th June. Time flew by, I had such a grin on my face, and I knew it was the right thing to do.

I already know so many in Grimsby, so I received lots of messages, basically saying “about time you got to Grimsby”. At the time I was still driving between Leeds and Grimsby for work, then I was notified of somewhere I could move to, close to work, within my budget and best of all I knew the person who’s house it is. The fishing industry is a very small world, and knowing ones in all aspects of the industry, all over the country, everyone knows everyone. A massive thanks goes out to Mr Hancock for making sure I have a roof over my head.

Mr Martyn Boyers sent me a message, to get to Grimsby Fish Market and a pass would be arranged for me to gain access to the market auctions! I was so happy. In the first month of working for Premier, I had gone from being on the market once with Seafish, to being on the market 3 mornings a week, watching my boss bidding on the fish needed for the shop and online customers and then dragging the kits of fish off to the truck. I love it, its hard to explain why, but I love the atmosphere and environment of the market, the nods of acknowledgement from the other merchants. It is such a buzz.

My Brixham family and FishSock

So, of course, thanks to this pandemic, everything had been cancelled, from fundraising efforts to competitions, but as a family, we managed to get down to Brixham. I love my Brixham family so much, Vix, Helen, Mike, Jim, and after a week of being with them, it made me feel so much better.

I can’t thank my Grimsby family enough for the past 6 months, for making me feel so welcome, for helping me to feel the same joy I felt about my job that I did 6 years ago. Special shout out to Shaun who I work with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Its like working with an older brother, makes me laugh until my sides ache, trusts me to do the job but can still annoy me!! People come into our lives for a reason, and Nathan, Julie, Daisy, Ruth, Vanessa, Shaun, Mark, Edward, Caz, Tommy and James all came along at the right time.

Shaun doesn’t mind a selfie when he’s wearing a mask!

So, whats on the horizon? doesn’t Who knows, but I feel I’m in the right place. This pandemic has shown every single one of us just how important our mental health is and should be. If you struggle, reach out, if you haven’t heard from a friend for awhile, reach out to them. Sometimes all you may need is a listening ear, or you may need something more. I take medication, may not suit everyone, and still doesn’t take situations away, but it helps to cope. I go for walks on the beach front at Cleethorpes, and that can help to switch off and centre. There is always someone who will help you, and there is always someone you can help.

Christmas Eve Morning 2020

So, a massive thank you to everyone who has come into my life this year, to all who have stuck by me, to those who continually encourage my love of the fishing industry and those who read my fishy ramblings.

Sea you all in 2021 ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

Grimsby Girlyfishmonger Journey..So Far

I have to admit that I have been a little quiet on my blogging. In fact, I was surprised when looking back on my posts, that the last blog I published was back in August! Thankfully, a friend reminded me that my blogs are read, so that gave me a little push to get one written. One of the fortunate aspects of working within the fish industry, is that it provides more than enough information for writing blogs, its just finding the time to research and write!

Filleting Hake

New Beginnings

Anyway, its been a very busy few months for me. I started to work for Premier Seafood, on Riby Street, Grimsby in July. I find that the customers I serve are really friendly, and of course wanted to know about the “new girl”. The looks on their faces when I told them, “I’m originally from Stoke, I live in Leeds, but work in Grimsby.” A 158 mile round trip from my place in Leeds, to work and back. Every day. Why on earth would you do that, you crazy person!!! I hear you all shout. The seafood industry, in a simple answer. If you have followed any of my previous blogs, or know me personally, you’ll know that I love being a part of the industry. That leads me to want to learn more, from the catching sector to sustainability, from learning how the fish is sold in a shout auction to then physically pulling the fish off the market floor with metal poles.

Early morning smiles

Not Everyone’s Idea Of Fun

Monday through to Wednesday, I go along with my boss Nathan to Grimsby Fish Market, which is literally 2 mins drive away from the shop. At the beginning, I would stand back, watching everything going on, numbers being shouted out, merchants placing their tickets on the kits of fish. Now, I love walking on to the market, walking around the kits and pallets of fish, checking quality, knowing which merchants will bid for certain fish. There aren’t many people who believe me when I say I find it exciting, seeing the potential sales in the fish which is purchased. Then we get to the fun part. Dragging the kits of fish, literally. A long metal pole, with a hook on the end, hook the handle and pull. Thankfully, because the floor is wet, you get a good start on pulling a kit and it slides, sort of! 50kgs plus of fish in each kit. Plus, thanks to the pandemic, we all have to wear masks on the market. That comes in useful though, then all the other fish merchants can’t see me puffing for breath, and seeing as I’m the only female on the auction floor, I can’t let the side down! There have been some lovely sunrises over the port, the sun will hit the iconic tower just right and I find it beautiful. Then its getting the kits onto the truck and back to the shop.

Nice little haul

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

My day can be so varied, that time does fly. From serving the mobile fishmongers, to the general public who come from all over different counties. I can also find myself filleting a varied range of fish, so I find that no sooner have I started work, its time to start closing down the shop. I do love it when I get chatting to a customer, and we talk about the fishing industry, or they ask for an opinion on a recipe, or even why I’ve made the move to Great Grimsby at all. The fish industry is an exciting, frustrating, fast paced, dangerous, under appreciated, poorly understood, industry, and I love it.

I love filleting

Unchartered Territory

Personally speaking, I feel I’m not the most self confident of people. Alot of the time I question my own ability and sometimes even my own worth to the industry. However, even I can’t deny that I’ve had an interesting journey over the past few months. From driving from Leeds to Grimsby and back every day, to now being settled within 15mins driving. Dragging kits of fish off from market, to going back to the shop to help sell it, from filleting to helping a customer with a recipe idea. I love it all, and all the while being aware that the fish we sell has had to be caught. There’s been a skipper and crew and hard work to get the fish here, and I find that an awesome thought and one which inspires me to try my best.

What’s Next?

A Girlyfishmongers dream in Peterhead, a tour of the “old” Market, and being aboard “Amity II” with Mr Jimmy Buchan

I have been very privileged to have done a couple of interviews in the past few months, and each interview ended with the question “What’s next for Emma, the Girlyfishmonger?” The honest answer, who knows? 7 years ago I “hated” fish. In the past 3 weeks, I’ve eaten at least 7 different species of fish! Thats just scratching the surface. I would, however, love to go to sea on a trawler. I’ve had the pleasure of being aboard “Amity” in Peterhead, and “Van Dijck” in Brixham, but we never left the quayside. To go out to sea would be the icing on the (fish) cake. As long as I try and promote the industry, try and pass my passion I have for the whole industry on to others, I’m a happy Girlyfishmonger.

๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

Being aboard “Van Dijck” with Skipper Drew in Brixham

The Changing Tide Of The Grimsby Fish Industry

Change Is Inevitableย 

If this year has shown us all anything, it is that change is inevitable. Daily, even hourly change is now a part of everyones routine. It is how we deal with it that effects our lives and future. History shows us that changes in our industries have shaped what they are now, including our fish industry. The industry is still thriving.

Respecting The Heritage

We must respect what has gone before. Respecting heritage maintains the values and traditions, and brings it into the present and can shape the future. One of the highlights of my job is going to the Grimsby Fish Market with my boss, Nathan. Sadly, the docks is in a state of disrepair. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Now, as we explore around the docks, old fish merchant signs are fading, letters are missing from once busy factories and the iconic ice factory and old pontoon have fences around them, with “unsafe structures”. Not very appealing.

We can look back and say that steps should have been taken to protect the structures and history that built the town. There are plans to make sure that the ice factory is saved, which will be good for the docks. The outward appearence of the industry has changed, but the industry remains, especially the fish market.

Grimsby Fish Market

I have been fortunate to step on Brixham and the previous Peterhead Fish Market and watch the auctions. Watching a full auction floor, stacked with kits of fish, fishermen and merchants is exciting. When I started my job at Premier Seafood in Grimsby, I was offered my own pass to gain access to the market. Now, I attend Grimsby Fish Market with my boss, paying close attention to the bidding between fish merchants. I can walk around before the auction starts assessing the quality of fish which has been landed. Nathan will go to market with an idea for some of the fish needed for our customers, and I have to admit that it is exciting watching him bidding on fish needed and winning the bid. The market itself has gone through changes.

Changing With The Times

There are a number of sites on social media where members can add photos of the fish industry in years past. Some of the photos would have health and safety inspectors having nightmares! Photos of fish merchants gathered around tonnes of fish, with a cigarette in one hand, or a cigarette in their mouth as they are picking up fish. Fish that was bought was then transported by barrow boys, as in wooden barrows. Handling fish isnt exactly a clean job as it is, but can you picture the scene?

Now a days, there is no unauthorised admittance, everyone wears a jacket, safety shoes and hats. As you walk on to the market, you walk through a boot sanitising machine, then hand washing station followed by hand sanitiser. Definitely, no smoking! Obviously, with the pandemic there are more protcols in place, such as face masks and social distancing.

Market Heritage And Tradition

The buisness remains the same. Auctioneers hold court on the auction floor, with bids on fish shouted out loud and clear. Mere nods or shakes of the heads from fish merchants (with names of some merchants known for generations) either increasing or ending the bidding, the tickets from the winning merchants getting placed on the kits of fish. Then a rush of moving tonnes of fish taken to the respective merchants trucks and off it goes. Either fork lift trucks take the fish, or the kits get manually pulled and pushed to the trucks. Actually, Nathan will say to me “go on barrow boy!” and off I go to pull the fish to the truck. I love it, just to be a part of it, plus its amazing exercise!

Championing The Industry Which Remainsย 

Despite all the challenges and issues facing this industry, Great Grimsby sourced fish is still important. It can be no coincidence that customers come from miles away from Grimsby, just to buy fish. It can be no coincidence that when you attend a restaurant and on the menu it states “Grimsby Sourced Fish”, theres a trust in that. There are so many important fish merchants and processors still thriving. From Premier Seafood (personally THE best fishmongers ๐Ÿ˜‰) to Riby Street Fishmongers, from The Kings Dish Smoke House to Alfred Enderby, from Flatfish Ltd to IshFish, and so many more in between, all working to one goal. Keeping the fish industry thriving, prospering and keeping Great Grimsby on the map.

Instead of mourning the “demise” of the past, maybe we should champion the thriving industry that we have and will continue to have for the next generation.

Em ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

Why Do I Find Grimsby So Great?

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I love Great Grimsby.

Thats just a plain and simple statement. I was talking to a prominent MP on the 1st day of working for Premier Seafood,ย  I told her a little of my background and that I had moved to Grimsby. When she asked why, I simply said, “because I love it.” Her response was “oh, really!!” The slight surprised tone of her voice nearly made me laugh out loud, but that is the response I usually get.

Here is a little background as toย whyย I love the home of the Mariners and synonymous with fish.

2015 changed everything for me. Prior to 2015, I had never been to Grimsby and to be honest I couldn’t have even told you where Grimsby was. 2015 I entered the British Fish Craft Championships, held on Cleethorpes beach. The minute I saw the dock tower of the port of Grimsby, that was it. Between 2015 and 2016, through social media I developed friendships with those within the fish and seafood industry in the town. 2016, I entered the Fish Craft Competition again, and it felt like returning home, familiarity. It was a nice feeling.

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After that, I’d return to Grimsby/Cleethorpes just for a few days break, explore the town, take in the history and the sights. Every time I went back, I loved it that little bit more. “I’d love to be a fishmonger in Grimsby”, was my dream statement, never actually thinking that I would actually achieve it.

“Grimsby isn’t what it used to be though.”

Thats true. In years gone by, there used to be so many trawlers landing fish at the docks, you could walk from one trawler and on to the next. Tonnes of fish would pack out the market, with fish merchants all jockeying for the best quality fish at the best prices at auction. Rows of fish merchants’ buildings filled the docks, with flat capped gents wearing fish stained jackets. Young lads with barrows moving the fish that their bosses had claimed at the auction, ready to clean the fish, then to be sold on. The sound of squawking gulls overhead trying to grab hold of a stray haddock.

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I have written blogs in more depth on the decline of the port and industry, but needless to say, the above description is no longer the case.

However,ย for me the industry is still there, on a much smaller scale obviously, but its there. Yes, the once proud buildings of merchants are in disrepair, but for me, each faded merchant name on the side of the buildings, is part of the fabric of Grimsby. It is a history which should be celebrated and revered.

On the other hand, the industry is still going. Having fish from Great Grimsby still means something, it has providence. Fish is still landed at the port, there is still an auction, which fish merchants attend. A fish auction is something to behold, a full market floor of fish can be surrounded by merchants and buyers and emptied in record time.

During this very surreal time in all of our lives, its almost as if consumers have fallen back in love with fish and seafood, with an increased demand. The past 2 weeks of working for Premier Seafood, has shown to me how far customers will travel for fish. Fresh fish and seafood gets packaged up and sent all over the country, bearing the providence of Great Grimsby.

I can’t help but draw similarities between my adopted town of Grimsby and my home town of Stoke. Stoke was famous for the pottery industry, that is what the city was built upon, as Grimsby was with fish. At the same time of tonnes of fish being landed at the docks, the air of the “potteries” was thick with the smoke from the potbanks. Whereas every family in Grimsby had at least 1 member who was a fisherman, or had some connection with the fish industry, the Potteries had 1 member of the family as a potter or a “sagger makers bottom knocker” (google that one!) Changes in the fortune of the pottery industry and economy means that potbanks are mostly museums or repurposed altogether. Once famous sprawling factories, such as Wedgwood, are now scaled down. Great Grimsby has their football team of “The Mariners”, Stoke has “The Mighty Potters”, but the least said about the football the better! Both Grimsby and Stoke still have their industries, and should be celebrated, and those still keeping their respective industries alive, should be championed.

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As I drive to work, I smile as I see the “Welcome to Great Grimsby” sign, followed by the sight of the Dock tower. As I park my car on Riby Street, and get out, there is the smell of the smokehouses, the noise of seagulls and fish merchants setting up their shops, and mobile fishmongers getting their stock. There are nods of acknowledgement from the merchants as I walk to Premier, shouts of “morning Emma” from the mobile fishmongers who I’ve come to know through social media.

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I am under no illusion that not every day will be perfect, as that would be impossible, but to do the job I love, in the town built on the industry I love, isn’t bad.

So, why do I find Grimsby so Great? I just do.

Em ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

Find us at Premier Seafood/King Crab on Riby Street, you can’t miss us, its a bright yellow building with a massive crab claw breaking out of the wall. Search for us on Facebook and Twitter, where the boss man Nathan puts constant updates and photos.

For The Love Of Seafood, To Feed A Nation

We live in unprecedented times, with uncertainty affecting all of us on different, personal levels. Businesses and industries have been affected to degrees not known since the World Wars. This, of course, includes the Seafood Industry. For me, the Seafood Industry encapsulates everything from the fishermen to fishmongers, from processors to NGOs.

An almost ‘overnight’ roll out of challenges started to appear. Social distancing meaning strict rules for fish buying markets, in a bid to keep everyone safe, but trying to maintain the industry which still kept us all fed during both World Wars. Prices were and are, still affected for the catches landed by fishermen. They need a fairs days wage for a fair days work, they need to maintain crews, as well as their own families and their businesses. To that end, some fishermen finding no other option than to tie in at harbour. UK landed fish is a sought after commodity, thanks to the measures taken to fish and the quality landed, and the export market usually being a lucrative one, is largely quiet.

That then leads to fishmongers and processors feeling the effects. A lot of independent fishmongers are to be found inside market places, some of which are now closed, or have restricted access, which means that footfall is no longer a viable option.

However…..

 

Adapting

The Seafood Industry has faced its unfair share of adversities, from the ‘Cod Wars’, red tape and legislation and even the weather for the fishermen. Then the changing face of retail and consumer buying. With all of those challenges, the industry faces them head on, and this is no different. Adapting is key.

Coastal fishmongers have made a big impact, supporting their landing markets and adapting their businesses. Fishermen themselves have been able to sell their catch directly from their vessel.

Inland fishmongers have had to adapt their businesses, in some cases, changing their whole business model completely. A lot of independent fishmongers supply restaurants and caterers. Due to the Covid Lockdown, the restaurants have closed and caterers have had to dramatically reduce their buying. So, whats the answer? Delivering to homes instead, whether it be in the locality, the county or even UK wide. Customers who are, quite rightly, obeying the government rules of Lockdown and staying at home, are still supporting their fishmonger and the industry, whilst still getting nutritious food.

Are There Any Positives To Be Gained?

We need to find a silver lining to all of this, to be able to stay positive. More customers are discovering their local independent fishmonger. Ones who were initially buying for their elderly relatives and neighbours, are returning the following week buying for themselves. Customers who, in the beginning days of Lockdown, admitted that they just wanted to avoid the supermarket queues, but in the proceeding weeks, keep returning.

I have served a lady who was telling me that she always used her supermarket fishmonger, but thought she would give the shop a try instead. “Tell me what you think of your fish next time.” I encouraged. The following week, return she did, vowing not to go back to the supermarket as she had never tasted such quality before. Young people have started to use the independent shops more too. Some are saying they were unsure of how to cook fresh fish, but whilst on Lockdown, they have the opportunity to cook and experiment.

It is not just an isolated case, but all over the country, from the furthest NE Scotland, to furthest SW Cornwall, from Wales to Ireland and not forgetting Grimsby and Brixham, fishmongers are doing their utmost to keep everyone fed. Fishermen are toiling and adapting to ensure that we have that supply.

What Can We Do To Support All We Can?

At the time of me writing this, the country is still in Lockdown, if you are in isolation, support your fishmonger by finding out if they are carrying out deliveries. If you don’t have a local fishmonger, get online and find fish companies to order what you need delivered to your door.

If you are still able to go out, respect social distancing rules, and if you find yourself having to queue, then you know you are at a quality fishmongers! As frustrating as it can be to queue, do so safe in the knowledge that your fishmonger is working hard, and still trying to keep themselves safe too.

Eat more fish! Don’t forget your recommended 2 portions of fish a week, with all the health benefits eating fresh seafood brings. Broaden your horizons and try different species, set yourself a challenge to swap the “Usual 5” Salmon, Cod, Haddock, Tuna and Prawns, for something new, ask for your fishmongers advice, and use locally sourced fish where possible. There is a wealth of Seafood to explore.

The Fishermen’s Mission

The Fishermen’s Mission is 139 years old, but their aim has never changed. They support the men, women and families involved in the fishing industry, offering practical help, support and counselling when needed. For the Fishermen’s Mission to be able carry on supporting the community, we need to support them. Please check out the website and also on all forms of social media.

 

The Future?

No one can possibly predict events after this virus, but if we all make use of the seafood industry, support our fishermen and their families, eat more fish, especially under utilised species, then it is fair to say that our seafood industry will be able to ride the rough seas to calmer waters

Em x

A massive shout out to every single fisherman, fisherwoman, fishmonger and processor I know. There are far too many to mention, but know that I am very proud of you all in these times and beyond

 

 

Is A Seafood Education Important For Future Generations?

29th November fulfilled 2 dreams for me. When I was in high school, I had always planned on being a teacher, the plan was either a primary school teacher or high school English teacher. Becoming a fishmonger was what I call “being in the wrong place at the right time.” So, being asked to teach nearly 60 students about different types of fish, sustainability and how to fillet a fish fulfilled my 2 dreams. Every single student I taught had never handled a fish and well over 3/4 had never eaten fish. What has gone wrong?

Modern Life

When my sister and I were small, our parents worked hard all day, with long hours, but every night we would come home from school and they would have cooked us our evening meal. It was very rare we would have a take away and always felt like a treat going to a fast food restaurant. Now, 30 years later, fast food, ready meals and take aways seem to be part of the staple diet. The danger there is losing an education in food. When does an education in food start, and who’s responsibility is it?

Education

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I learnt cooking with my parents. I’ll admit here and now, however, I am a shocking cook, I could burn water, but my mum and dad made sure I knew the basics. At my high school, we had the most fantastic kitchen set up, although I could still burn water, we did however learn about fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, proteins, dairy, good and bad fats. Is there still an emphasis on teaching basics of food, including fish, or is fish seen as too expensive a commodity to use within education?

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As the young people filed in to the class room, I received the reaction I expected, and secretly wanted. They either had their hands over their noses, nervous giggling or a resounding chorus of “ugggh!” I could relate to that, and work with it. I admitted to the class that I had felt the same way about fish when I was their age. Whether it was because we could now both relate to each other, or because they were fascinated with fish in front of them, they were fantastic to teach. Within minutes, they were asking questions, they were watching and I had willing volunteers preparing Whole Squid and filleting Plaice in front of their classmates. Simon, the chef I was working with, then cooked some calamari and plaice goujons, they all tried some. For the first time they had all eaten fresh fish. So, is it important?

Funding

I had been asked by The Food Teachers Centre to do the event with them. I was rather shocked and dismayed that they had had their funding cut. The service that they provided within schools to help teach children and young people about cooking, food, nutrition and healthy eating, was cut. Seeing the young people in front of me enjoying finding out about fish and being hands on, made me wonder why on earth funding for services like this would be cut and seen as non essential.

Is It Worth Teaching Young People About Fish And Seafood?

To be honest that really shouldn’t be a question. To put it simply, the future generations are our next customers, our fishmongers, chefs, food specialists, technicians, nutritionists and processors. They need to be taught about fish and seafood, not just because they should be able to make healthy choices now and in their growing futures, but also so they know there could be possible career paths open to them.

What Can Be Done To Help?

I felt extremely honoured to be asked to help launch the Fish Hero event in schools. Its an ideal time to teach and learn about fish and seafood. The young people sat and listened, they asked questions. I heard 2 of the girls talking about what a baby squid is called. They dared each other to ask me, and after I asked them what they thought it should be called, they loved it. I loved it when they said they thought it should be squidlet, rather than chick. They all learned how to fillet a mackerel, and following Simon’s fantastic cookery demo, they made a delicious recipe. 2 of the boys were left handed, and stood looking at the fish. “Miss, we can’t do it!” I went over to them, smiling that I’d been called Miss. “What can’t you do?” “We can’t fillet the fish, we are left handed.” After gentle persuasion and reassurance, they both filleted the fish extremely well. They gave each other a high 5, smiling at the fillets that they said couldn’t do.

If every fishmonger all over the country could help amazing initiatives such as the Food Teachers Centre, you would be helping young people to achieve something. Maybe they could find that they can do something that they never thought possible. Maybe they find an interest in fish and seafood that they never had before. What do we get back in return? We then have generations of young people, growing up finding a love or interest for fish, seafood and the great bounty we have in our waters.

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@FoodTCentre please follow them on Twitter and get in touch if you can help them.

@tarbetts the fish was kindly sponsored by Yorkshires largest and best independent fishmongers- who I happen to work for in my day job

@Girlyfishmonger my twitter handle if you’d like to follow along in all things fishy.

 

 

Do You Trust The Seafood Industry?

Trust- “Firm belief in the reliability,ย truth, or ability of someone or something.” So,ย Do You Trust The Seafood Industry?

People can generally fit into one of three categories in relation to trust

  1. You can trust implicitly, a trust based on evidence.
  2. A wavering trust, which can easily be built on, but can just as easily be shaken
  3. No trust whatsoever, and nothing will change that.

What does that have to do with the seafood industry?

As a fishmonger, I know what Haddock looks and tastes like. I trust my ability, knowledge and skills. I also trust my boss that when he orders Haddock, that is what we have for our customers. He trusts the supplier to supply what he asks for. The supplier trusts the fish auction markets or the skippers from whom they buy from.

Customers then trust the fishmonger. They return week after week to buy quality fish because they built up faith and trust that what they ask for, they get.

What if you have a wavering trust in seafood?

You’ll eat fish occasionally, maybe from your local fish and chip shop. You trust that it is fish, but whether you believe it to be Cod, Haddock, Pollock or Coley is another matter. That is as far as your trust goes in fish and seafood, unless someone convinces you otherwise. Maybe you identify with the third category. You don’t trust it, therefore you won’t buy it and certainly won’t eat it.

Trust is built up over time, and is tested. Trust can be lost very quickly. Transparency of the seafood industry makes it easy to build up trust. You can look online and find out what vessel catches which species. Skippers can be found on social media, you can find out their background and history of fishing and any accreditation they may have. You can go online and find out more about the fish species being caught, even to how you can cook it.

Seafood Fraud

I heard someone say “where there is money to be made, there will be fraud”. The seafood industry is a billion pound industry. Fraud, either actual or attempted is inevitable. There are agencies and strict protocol to ensure that it does not enter the food chain. How do you go that one step further to ensure its authenticity? You go to a trusted fishmonger, a trusted supplier.

Conflicted Information

We live in an age of a constant stream of media, stories constantly running across the globe. One minute it is reported that farmed seafood is the way forward and avoid wild species. The same media outlet, the following week, may report avoid farmed species at all costs and eat wild caught. What are we to do, then? Trust our own judgement, go to trusted information outlets and those who know what they are talking about. As a fishmonger, I’m asked many questions by customers, sometimes the same question by various customers, but would rather they know the answer and for them to return on the basis of reliable information.

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Storytellers, not Scientists

Media reporters are “storytellers, not scientists.” Reporters are there to sell a story. Most, if not all fishmongers, skippers and suppliers I know are not scientists, but they know their job, based on generations of a trust based working relationship. I’m not expecting someone who doesn’t eat fish, to read this and all of a sudden go out and buy fish.

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Take it from someone who used to be convinced that she hated fish, who 25 years ago wouldn’t touch fish, but now works in and for the industry wholeheartedly.

Trust me, I’m a fishmonger.

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Fishermen, Our Unsung Heroes

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For a short while I’ve been immersed even more into the fishing industry. I follow SeaFish, the rules and regulations of The MMO and fishing policies from all over the UK. However, there is nothing more rousing than seeing a fishing fleet first hand.

I went up to the most north easterly tip of Scotland, Peterhead, two years ago and was invited aboard Amity II by Jimmy Buchan, getting a guided tour of that beautiful vessel, learning to tie a cod end and eating freshly cooked scampi from the man himself was an occasion I’ll never forget.

 

Every time as a family we come down to Brixham, I tried to spot the Van Dijck. You get used to seeing certain vessels over time, and then you find out who the skippers are etc. Then, through the power of social media, you get to know the skippers. You get to hear stories, first hand, of the highs, lows and “brown trouser moments”.

This is where I get passionate about the industry. FISHERMEN ARE UNSUNG HEROES. The capital letters are intentional. Hearing skippers tell of Force 9 storms, fearing the loss of crew men, literally having to call out in complete darkness, wind and lashing waves, and the feeling of relief upon hearing the crew mate calling back he was safe. The lack of catch, the issue with days at sea. There are also the highs, great fish sales at market, fantastic weather conditions and a faithful crew.

How many of us are truly grateful for what happens at sea.

 

The Van Dijck of Brixham has recently been refitted, and had been following the progress online. She looked beautiful, with a very proud skipper. So, imagine my delight, when walking through the town, I spot Drew the skipper. We had a good chat about the refit and fishing trips, with my mum learning a thing or two aswell!

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Fishermens Mission

I also caught up with the lovely Helen Lovell, who works as a support worker for the Fishermens Mission. There she was laden down with “Fish Mish” goodies, and her partner Mike aka “Sprat” who goes to sea on “Julie Of Ladrum”, with a box of Fishermens Mission Calendars for 2020 (more on that later). Together, me and Helen walked on the quay, watching the hustle and bustle of the fishing boats. There is something special in watching a vessel, as close as you can, leaving the quay to go back to sea. The sound of the engines, the smell of the oil and seeing the crew working hard like everything is second nature. Seeing them going out on the hunt, standing right on the quay is inspiring. The work the Fishermens Mission does for these amazing men and women is, in itself, special and worthy and more than deserves to be celebrated.

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A surprise Invite

Later that day, after putting photos on of my day, I received a post on social media. “Would you want to come and have a look around Van Dijck?” Erm, yes!!! So, 9am this morning, sun glittering off the tide in the harbour, I was walking on the quay, I received nods of acknowledgement and “morning”, from fishermen on small day boats, and inshore boats, to the bigger trawlers. Then, the Van Dijck. She really is a beautiful, stunning red scallop trawler. A jump over from the quay on board and I had a guided tour. Seeing where the crew sleep, work and eat makes it that more real.

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Sat in the kitchen, with a well made coffee, I chatted with Drew, 12 mile limits, effects of Brexit, any issues being a scalloper really made me smile. It’s a great feeling talking with someone like that and not having the conversation “simplified”. The technology in the wheelhouse is astounding, with buttons, levers and electronic screens quite literally all over the place. It’s a massive advancement in technology from the way fishing was conducted centuries ago. Even Mike (Sprat’s) family history had great grandparents who fished by row boat fishing, which literally meant going out to sea in a big row boat, fishing. There are still dangers, it’s still not easy, in fact fishing is still the most dangerous occupation in peacetime.

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The most danger I have in my job, is cutting a finger whilst filleting or prepping a fish. These men, and women, risk their lives going out to sea. Leaving family behind, going out on the hunt for whichever species they target, whether it be scallops, cuttles, Langoustines, Cod, or whichever species they have license to land at market.

It’s been said to me that it is a “marmite” job, most experienced skippers will know whether someone on their crew isย  cut out for it within a day or two.

I truly wished that everyone knew the sacrifice that fishermen and their families make, to make sure that fish is on our plates, that our fish processors have fish to process, markets have fish to sell. The Fishermens Mission working hard to support fishermen and their families, raising money to support active and retired fishermen, to support families of those lost at sea. Maybe one day everyone will realise just what is done to keep the heritage going now and for the future.

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Em ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•๐ŸŸ

*I have 28 of the Fishermens Mission 2020 calendars for sale, please help to raise money for The Fish Mish and get in touch with me if you’d like to buy one.*