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.
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
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.