Oscar Wilkie shares a week in the life of a fleet researcher

The fleet survey is an aspect of my job at Seafish that I – along with my fellow researchers Carlos and Joe – cannot wait to come around. This year, the anticipation was even greater.

Covid-19 meant that a face-to-face survey was not possible in 2020, so we were all raring to get out and see people – and the beautiful UK coastline – again!

The rest of the year, we are occupied with conducting a desk-based survey of processing businesses, undertaking enquiries for industry stakeholders and producing financial estimates for the UK fishing industry. However, for about three months over the summer and autumn, we are privileged to visit the furthest corners of the UK to gather data on fishing businesses and their crew, and the factors influencing how well they feel their business is performing.

On a Monday morning, I’ll set off early for whichever part of the UK I’m surveying. Each of us covers a large portion of the country. This year I’m surveying Wales, northern England and Northern Ireland (but don’t be too surprised to see me elsewhere).

We can pick and choose which ports and harbours we visit during the week. The aim is to visit as many as we can, and we’ll plan in advance, using knowledge of the area gained during previous surveys. A bit like fishing, it’s a job in which the more you put into it, the more you get out. Driving between many different harbours, or getting up very early, can be beneficial – though not always to your mood by the end of the day.

Some days, it pays to spend a whole day at a larger port where there will be people landing or tending to their boats throughout the day. We’ll perhaps return again towards the end of the week to see if there are different boats in. Some days, flitting between small harbours in the hope of catching a single person is the order of the day! Being aware of which locations are tidally influenced, or on which days buyers are likely to be in the area, can be useful for timing trips to harbours to catch fishers. We also call people who have previously taken part, or have shared their contact details with us, to set up meetings.

Running through the survey can range from a 10-minute race through the questions to a chat for an hour about all things fishing in the area. Whether you only have a few minutes to spare or more time to chat,

I learn something from every person I talk to, and am always very grateful for your time in participating. The more owners and skippers we speak to, the better our representation of the fleet will be. Whether you own several boats or fish part-time, we’re interested in what you have to say.

Oscar is a fleet researcher with Seafish, working on the 2021 fleet survey, which is taking place now. If you are happy to take part, please email: fleet.survey@seafish.co.uk with your name, email and/or phone number and port of operation.

Find out more 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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