There are many issues regarding the fishing industry that are very close to my heart. The topic of this blog even more so.
The Fishermen’s Mission and the Sacrifice of Fishermen.
The History Of The Fishermen’s Mission
1881 the Royal National Mission To Deep Sea Fishermen began its work, offering food and medical supplies to fishermen. The Mission has cared for the well-being of fishermen and their families for over 130 years, and although the times and fishing industry has advanced, the Fishermen’s Mission has always remained a beacon for fishermen and their families.
Why Is The Fishermen’s Mission So Important?
We are an island nation, and from Cornwall to Scotland, Wales to Grimsby the fishing industry is still a main stay of the economic, commercial and food production welfare of the country. It is very easy to see why Brexit and Fishing rights is such an emotive topic for fishermen and politicians.
Fishing is the UK’s toughest and most dangerous occupation in peace time, even today, with modern fishing vessels and the latest technology, fishermen are still being lost at sea each and every year.
According to figures published in 2016, the number of fishermen in the UK was 12, 107. This was an increase of 262 on the previous year. Every one of those fishermen goes out to earn a living, not just for themselves but for their families and those who depend on them. The skippers of fishing vessels have to look over the welfare of their crew, the safety of the vessel, the catch that they land AS WELL as their own safety and well-being.
Safety and regulations of fishing vessels have improved drastically since the 1800s. In the 1800s young boys, runaways and orphans were used as apprentices, with little or no regard for regulations, safety and well-being. Official figures, which are not always accurate, show that thousands of men died in the early years of the growth of the fishing industry. In reality, the actual figure of deaths including the apperentice boys, orphans and runaways, would be much higher. They wouldn’t be missed would they? An extremely sad but true reflection on society then and not just in the fishing industry.
Even now men are lost at sea. Accidents and storms still claim them, some are found and returned home, some very sadly, are completely claimed by the sea and are never found.
Fishermen can have a lonely life aswell as living a perilous one. Working a long time out a sea and missing their families. The wives, children and families of fishermen also live a difficult life. The worry for their husbands, fathers, sons and nephews must be part of their every day life.
Fishing is still synonymous with the UK. Fishing ports such as Mousehole, Newlyn, Brixham, Grimsby and Peterhead are instinctively known. Billingsgate Market is one of the most famous markets in the world. Fishmongers Hall and the National Federation Of Fishmongers have a vested interest in the fishing industry as they go hand in hand.
Fishing towns have suffered and gone into decline in the last three decades partly because of the European Union fisheries policies. Although in some ports the industry has moved forward it hasn’t always been for the best in some cases. Families who have had a long and proud heritage and lineage of fishermen, no longer go to sea. Boys in these towns may not even want to be fishermen when they grow up. Finding suitable and willing men to go to sea may even prove difficult for skippers in these towns.
It is unlikely that Grimsby, the former premier fishing port in the world, will recover that position. However, it has an heritage to be proud of and some companies based in Grimsby, such as Flatfish Ltd have risen to the challenge to become one of the leading companies not just in the UK but internationally aswell.
Brixham is a beautiful town, which has a special place in my heart, and that too is very proud of its fishermen. They have recently unveiled a quite beautiful and touching statue on Kings Quay of “Man and Boy.” The statue watches the coming and goings of all the fishermen.
I am extremely looking forward to going up to Peterhead in June, hopefully visiting the market and trawlermen who I’ve come to know through social media.
Fishermen and their families need support and someone they can turn to. If a fisherman has an accident, or falls on hard times, they need someone. If a loved one loses their husband or father, they need someone to be there for them. If an older fisherman, who has only known fishing all his life, feels isolated and lonely he needs someone to talk to.
That is what the Fishermen’s Mission provides. They are there for the fishermen and their families. They provide that support and they are that listening ear. They are a beacon for all involved in the fishing industry, and the Fishermen’s Mission need our support in return.
Why Is The Fishermen’s Mission Important To Me?
It may sound odd that I live right in the middle of the midlands, have no real direct connection with the fishing industry but I am so passionate about the industry and the Mission.
It’s due to the fact that I am a fishmonger. The trade and industry go hand in hand. I love what I do and take a very keen interest in where and how the fish is sourced. There are updates on the news and through social media of fishermen lost at sea. 2016 was the worst year for fishermen lost at sea in a decade. It genuinely touches me when I hear of men and women lost at sea.
It is a bug bear of mine when I hear people say that fish is expensive. People should be educated in the actual price of fish. I’ve even heard people say “Well, if it’s that dangerous, don’t do it!”
I believe that being involved in any part of the fishing industry is a calling. I’m sure if you ask a fisherman why he does it, every single fisherman will give you a whole raft of reasons, and despite all the hardships, they will never want to do anything else.
So, apart from the fact that fishermen and their families need the support, I firmly believe that they deserve the support of the Fishermen’s Mission. This leads to another question. How can we support the Fishermen’s Mission?
Supporting The Fishermen’s Mission
There are many ways in which you can support the Mission. You can go online and donate. You can follow along on Facebook and Twitter and see all the charity events that are held to raise money.
June 7th 2017 is Fish Friday. All over the country, fishmongers, both independent and retail, fish and chip shops and everyone in between will be raising and donating money.
One of the biggest events of the year is FishStock, organised by Mr James Portus and his team of volunteers. We all take over Brixham port and there are all sorts of stalls, food stalls and events going on. Last year Darth Vader and stormtroopers proved a hit! I had the pleasure of helping trawlermen and fishmongers set up, prepare and sell fish all for the Fishermen’s Mission. People should be made aware of the sacrifices that fishermen make, and the unwavering support of the Fishermen’s Mission.
Please follow The Fishermen’s Mission on Twitter @thefishmish
Their website http://www.fishermensmission.org.uk for more on the history of the Mission and how you can help. Also, search for them on Facebook.
To find out more about the FishStock festival in Brixham, you can follow my friend Mr James Portus on twitter @FishStock1 and also @FishstockFest
Please check out my friend Dr Stephen Bloys book “The Hidden Truth.” It’s an amazing story with characters who you almost become friends with. It centres on two boys who start out as apprentices on a fishing smack in Grimsby.
Needless to say, I am very proud of the career I undertake. I am very proud of the fishermen who go out each and every day, in weather conditions that would scare anyone. They risk everything they have to provide every single fishmonger and filleter in the country with fish and shellfish to then provide each and everyone of us with food. Spare a thought when you hear of storms battering the coast and the fishermen who still fish in these condition.
Fishermen Sacrifice so much to sustain our fishing industry, and The Fishermen’s Mission do so much to support them in return. It’s only right that we also try to support them.