Seafish fleet researcher Sheriene Murphy shares a day in the life of a researcher hitting the harbours

Wick harbour, 9.30am: there are a few fishing boats in, but I see no one around on the pier, so I head to the harbour office. I’m greeted warmly by harbour master Ian Cormack and harbour board secretary and administrator Camilla Elder. They recognise me from my photo on Facebook, and I’m offered tea and excellent conversation.

The insights they provide about Wick and the harbour, as well as the challenges the industry is facing, are invaluable, and I am grateful that they share their knowledge. The ongoing impact of rising fuel prices comes up as a particular problem in the region – it’s a subject which is becoming increasingly familiar throughout my travels.

As a researcher, I cover a lot of ground visiting harbours, but I’m reminded that my commutes are a drop in the ocean when it comes to the fuel costs fishers are facing.

Inshore vessels in a quiet Scrabster…

As our conversation wraps up, Camilla spots a fisherman and takes me over for an introduction. I’m invited to come onboard and we have a lengthy discussion. He tells me how he’s had to cut back in light of the rising cost of running his business. He’s adapted by reducing the number of days he goes out, but staying at sea longer when he’s out – essentially doing three days of work in two.

Helmsdale, midday. I’m out of luck to land a fisherman this time, but I have some informative discussions with a new source – the locals who have noticed me wandering about! From them I find out when the fishermen are due back. They also share thoughts on the ongoing discussion surrounding fuel prices, and the negative effects it’s having on the area.

… and around the coast in Helmsdale

Wick harbour, 2pm. It’s still quiet, but I spot two men on the harbourside and, what luck, they’re both fishermen, and willing to take part in the survey. They tell me that the increasing unpredictability of the weather, with heatwaves and storms, is causing issues. Whilst they can’t control the weather, they’ve found a savvy way to save on fuel – easing off the throttle! Small changes like this are not permanent solutions, but are helping fishers to ease things along.

Scrabster, 4.30pm. It’s my last visit for the day. I check the harbour office, and find out that some local trawlers are scheduled to be in on Thursday night. I’ll come back to catch them and the local potters another day. Sheriene 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: 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


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