Share a day in the working life of a certified advanced fishmonger – whose social media presence helps with sales and has opened the door to new opportunities

“I was made redundant in November of last year,” Emma told Fishing News. “I walked in one day and the boss just said he was closing the shop – and that was that.”

However, Emma, known as @girlyfishmonger across her social media channels, wasn’t out of a job for long, and she was soon approached by Simon Gray of the Fish in School Hero programme – a scheme that gives schoolchildren the chance to prepare, cook and eat fish.

“It was brilliant. I loved doing it,” said Emma. “The pupils were 11 to 12 years old, and when I was their age I hated fish. I couldn’t stand it.

“When I walked into a school, and I had gurnard, mackerel, octopus, I knew the reaction I’d get would be: ‘That’s disgusting – I’m not touching that!’”

Earlier this year, Emma – pictured here with programme manager Simon Gray – took part in the Fish in School Hero programme. “The teachers were amazed. Students that they didn’t expect to get involved at all were the ones who were volunteering to fillet with me,” she said.

However, Emma’s fishmongering skills and friendly nature soon won over her audiences. “It went from everybody at the back of the classroom nowhere near me, to at the end them almost fighting one another to get a hold of the fish.”

Emma, who has been a fishmonger for almost nine years, says that she wouldn’t work in any other industry now, despite her introduction to the role being entirely accidental.

While working for Tesco in her home town of Stoke-on-Trent, Emma was asked to step in to help out on the fish counter. “My boss said: ‘Look, I know you don’t like fish – but please give it a try.’

“The first fish I ever filleted was salmon,” she said. “The minute I filleted that fish, that was it. I never looked back.”

That first step has since taken Emma on a journey into different areas of the industry, from competing at the British Fish Craft Championships to giving educational demonstrations and talks.

That journey has now taken her to East Sussex and the position of manager at Rye Fish Market’s retail shop. Once again, it was Emma’s online presence that helped secure the role. “Chapman’s of Sevenoaks, which owns Rye Fish Market, said they were looking for a manager that can run the shop, and knows how to deal with social media,” she said. “They actually found me through social media – which was really nice.”

Emma arrives at Rye Fish Market at 7am, and one of her first tasks is to set up her counter, beautifully laying out the day’s fish.

One of the first jobs of the day is displaying the day’s fish. “I love setting up the counter,” said Emma, who leads an all-female front-of-house team of three. The species beautifully presented on the slab also dictate the day’s social media strategy. “The first week I was here we did scallop week – so we managed to shoot a couple of videos of the scallopers landing – which I certainly didn’t see when working up in Grimsby!”

However, it’s not long before her thoughts turn to posting content on social media. “We have restaurants in Rye that order from us, so we start by getting their orders together for delivery, and then from 9am the shop opens to the public.

“I try and do as much social media as I can before it starts getting too busy in the shop. I’ve got two pages on Facebook, two on Instagram, and I’ve also got Twitter and LinkedIn,” she said.

Ideas for what content to post come from a range of sources, including the weather. “The past week and a half the weather has been absolutely shocking. Our fishermen are just day-boats, but because the weather has been so bad, they’ve only been able to get out one day.

“However, we can put on social media about the weather conditions, and the welfare of our fishermen, and how we look after them. We can tell the story.”

Obviously the weather also has an impact on the availability of species that Emma, and her two colleagues Kelly and Kayla, can sell. “I’m in charge of ordering the fish in as well. Anything we don’t get from our fishermen, I order in from Billingsgate. And that’s normally with me at about 10am.”

Emma has worked mainly in the north of England, so the move south has brought her into contact with some less familiar species.

“We get whole skate in, so that needs skinning and the wings taken off. And then we’re getting huss. We get the whole fish, and we put some on the counter – basically for people to go: ‘Oh – what is that?’

“It’s species that people who live here are used to, but it’s also about showing tourists and visitors something a little bit different.”

The afternoon is spent helping customers with queries, and preparing their chosen fish – while keeping a look-out for suitable content to post on social media.

At around 5pm, the end of another busy day approaches. “I normally give myself at least an hour to make sure everything is clean and tidied away. Any fish that’s left over all gets put into clean pans, and then completely iced over,” she said.

“All the ice gets shovelled off the counter. Then it’s a case of getting scrubbed down, cleaned down, floor mopped – and away I go.”

Next week:  Share a day in the life of Darren ‘Edd’ Edwards of Brixham Trawl Makers.

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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