Every week we ask our readers to give their insights and thoughts on the UK and Irish commercial fishing industry. Here’s the letter we have picked this week…

Dear Editor,

For the last 15 years, I have been studying and researching the UK fishing industry across all its sectors, to try to tell the story of our national catch, and connect producer to consumer, via accurate and authentic storytelling that represents the industry fairly and consistently, in a way that the layman can understand. This serves to educate, inform and enthuse consumers and to arm them with the right information, when choosing and purchasing seafood.

My experience has taken me to all quarters of the British Isles, and I have made it my purpose to spend time at sea with fishermen wherever I can, to learn more about best practice from the ‘coal face’, and to give that story integrity.

I passionately believe in self-sufficiency, and that as a nation we should embrace far more of what we land – although I admire and applaud other nations for their superior seafood eating cultures and their preference for our own native fish and shellfish, exports of which are so vital for our coastal economies.

Consumers have so very little idea of how our food is produced, and the commoditisation of imported seafood by supermarkets, which translates into virtually 80% of our consumption, has only served to reduce this knowledge.

Our fishermen deserve better. Even in the relatively few years that I have actively been embedded in the industry, I have witnessed a deplorable state of decline, especially in the inshore sector, and no more so than here on my home coast of Suffolk, where only a tiny fraction now exists of a once thriving fleet.

The latest raft of legislation from Defra, the MCA et al has been, and continues to be, the nail in the coffin for so many fishing businesses, and with a general lack of succession for many skippers, I fear the future not only for our industry, but its communities, heritage, culture and diversity, is bleak.

The appalling predicament of the Hunkin family in Mevagissey – forced to put their boat up for sale, after a family history in the industry stretching back 300 years – only serves to highlight this.

We have lost six boats I know of, here on the east coast, in the last few months, with skippers having their hands forced to sell and retire under the weight and pressure of unworkable, disproportionate and burdensome legislation, spatial competition at sea, the unknown and unpredictable consequences of the marine industry on the environment and its ecosystems, and notably here, intense and unsustainable predation from a burgeoning population of grey seals, with new colonies springing up everywhere.

I despair that the industry I have loved all my life, since I first went to sea, fishing for lobsters with my father, is being systematically discriminated against and dismembered, without thought or consideration of the knock-on effect on the communities that have shaped our coastline for countless generations.

I feel the need for more unilateral cohesion in our industry, although by its disparate nature, I realise that’s an incredibly difficult ask. However, I do remain fervently optimistic and committed in the belief that the situation we find ourselves in is transient, and that with the right input of common sense, lateral, critical thinking and proportionate science and management, there will always be fish in the sea.

I will continue to strive for the conservation of our UK fishing industry, the sustainability of which, in many sectors, is itself now on the red list.

Mike Warner A Passion for Seafood


Email your letters and comments to: fishingnews.ed@kelsey.co.uk, WhatsApp to: +44 7741 413966
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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 £3.50 here

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