“I grew up in Wantage, Oxfordshire,” industry consultant, artist, photographer and blogger Laurence Hartwell told Fishing News. “Then, at the age of seven, I became a ‘ten pound Pom’.

Laurence and his family stayed in Australia for only a couple of years, but the long journeys by sea to and from the other side of the world had a lasting impact on him – one which ultimately shaped his career.

“Even now I remember it. We saw all of the things you get to see on a world cruise. I saw the Rock of Gibraltar, Naples, Marseilles, the pyramids, the Suez Canal, Aden, Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore, Mumbai, Bali…

“The trips to Australia and back definitely sowed a seed. I just associated going to sea with one big adventure – and still do.”

However, his career began not at sea, but in the classroom – teaching in special needs schools in Hertfordshire. That changed after moving to Cornwall in 1978 when, after failing to secure a permanent teaching job, he used this as an excuse to go fishing.

His career at sea saw him fish on a number of vessels – mainly out of Newlyn, but also as far afield as Rockall and the Scottish west coast, gaining his skipper’s ticket in the process.

In 1994, Laurence came ashore, returning to teaching at a time when the world was experiencing a communications revolution in the form of the internet – presenting him with an opportunity.

“By the late 1990s broadband was just coming in. I’ve always had a camera with me, and I’ve got about 1,000 photos shot on film of boats in the harbour and life at sea.

“I had all these images, a story to tell, and the skills to build a website. So around the year 2000, I made a website to showcase Newlyn harbour and the industry. The idea was to keep updating the website, but of course back then it was laborious and time- consuming.

“I then discovered blogging software. Having a blog was an easy and convenient way to post on a regular basis – and I could tell a story as it happened.”

Laurence with chef Nathan Outlaw at the St Ives Food Festival. Through blogging, and posting on X @ThroughTheGaps, he aims to connect people within the wider industry. “Fishing is such a complicated thing. Partly the reason for doing the blog is to help make connections for everybody in the industry.”

Via his blog Through the Gaps, Laurence not only showcases Newlyn harbour, the local industry, and the fish being landed, but also posts a wide range of information on legislation, regulations and other resources which could be of use to fishermen and the wider industry.

“When I was fishing, even for me, as motivated and as interested as I was in fish and looking after the quality of it, there still wasn’t a total connection between what I did as a fisherman and what you ate on a plate. For most of the guys, that disconnect was much greater than mine. Fish paid the mortgage, or the bills – and that’s it. It wasn’t food.

“The idea of the blog was to try and break that disconnect, and to make the connection between what the guys do at sea with what goes on your plate.”

Laurence’s first task of the day is to update the blog with the morning’s activity. “I’m down the market for about 6.30am to 7am. I used to go down at 6am when the shout auction started, but now it’s online so there’s nothing to see in terms of the actual auction.

“I’ll take photographs of the key fish and anything interesting fish-wise. I might take a photo of a boat that’s landing for a particular reason, and also shots across the harbour to show the weather conditions and how many of the fleet are in port.

“Sometimes there will be lots of fish, and sometimes there won’t be very much. It just depends, but it keeps that narrative going of what’s been landed, and by the different sectors and through the seasons.

“I’ll also catch up on the gossip. This morning I spoke with some of the guys who work for the harbour on what they see is changing – a key feature of my role as a member of the harbour’s advisory board to the commissioners.”

Laurence then heads home to upload the morning’s content. “I’ll start by editing the photographs. Generally, if I can, I’ll get the pictures edited with the copy written before I go and teach. These days that’s part-time, so
I have more time to get things done.”

As well as blogging, Laurence – seen here giving a talk to fishermen on making use of social media – regularly works with television producers and crews, writers, creative and research students, and government bodies. He also sits on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries. (Photo: Matt Slater)

Another part of his day is to source and work on new content. “At the moment I’m covering Will Treneer’s new boat Inter-Nos. They have a new way of getting fish off the boat using a type of pump that’s not been used by any local boats before – so that will be a real interest. Very often, the focus is on innovation and any developing trends.”

Through his blogging, Laurence is documenting a changing industry. “Fishing is four-dimensional in a way that almost nothing else is. Farming is the closest to it – but that’s static. If the farmer puts potatoes in, potatoes will come up. Five years ago, nobody caught a bluefin tuna. This year they’ve become a regular feature of the morning market – there was one on there this morning.”

Through the Gaps can be accessed here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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