Seafish fleet survey researcher Euan Newgreen reports on his experience of the UK fishing community and the struggles it faces in overturning public opinion about the seafood industry
As a recent graduate with an interest in the fishing industry, I was keen to break into the sector with a field researcher role at Seafish. This has given me a unique opportunity to talk face to face with the industry experts themselves: fishers.
During my travels with the job, which were predominantly in southern England and Scotland’s Western Isles, I’ve come to learn that public understanding about the sector is extremely limited. This lack of knowledge, coupled with popularised misinformation about the industry, has impacted industry reputation and the level of public respect and support fishers receive for their incredible work in bringing seafood to our plates.
Listening to the fishers I met, I was shocked by the daily struggles they face and impressed with their stoic strength. After a summer awash with acts of kindness from the fishing community, including offers of home-cooked meals and invitations to join the crew at sea, I want to share my positive experiences of the industry.
One experience that stays with me is a visit to a coastal hamlet in Suffolk in July. I was conducting a survey with a local who is the last fisher out of the area. I was welcomed into his home and given a heart-wrenchingly honest account of his recent struggles and the difficulty of keeping afloat during hard times.
The trials he has faced are not unique; many regions struggle with costs and recruitment, due in part to public perception of the sector. Yet this man, like so many others I’ve met, was incredibly generous despite his troubles.
After an hour-long talk, I was in search of lunch and a quiet moment to digest what I’d heard, and the fisher offered to take me to a local café, where I ordered my unsurprising craving – fish and chips.
As I went to pay, the cashier waved me away, saying that the meal had already been covered. This generosity from a fisher who found space to accommodate a stranger in hard times is a simple action that shows the power of kind acts, which are common in local fishing communities.
Throughout my time as a researcher, I’ve been rendered speechless by the selflessness exhibited by fishermen countrywide. It shows that innate human kindness triumphs in difficult times, and that the seafood industry has more to it than meets the eye.
Euan is a fleet researcher with Seafish, working on the 2022 fleet survey. This is taking place now, with researchers visiting ports and harbours across the country. If you are happy to take part, please email: email@example.com with your name, email and/or phone number and port of operation, or visit the Fleet Survey page on the Seafish website to find out when researchers will be in your area.
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.