British Fishing Industry – Part 1

Above is a picture of a trawler. Trawlers are fishing boats that pull their nets along the sea bottom and they are mainly concerned with catching flat fish (which tend to live on the bottom) and other, bigger fish that live at greater depths like Cod, Ling and others.

The boat above is a Lowestoft Trawler – all boats that used to sail out of Lowestoft had an LT number. It is a “Side Dragger” which is the type of trawler that streams its net over one side or the other and pulls it along the sea bed. If you look at the picture and just to the right of the number LT 555 there is a device called the “gallows” it is where one of the two steel warps go that hold the net. There is one to the stern of the ship but it is harder to see.

The reason why I have started this blog post in this manner is because – that is the type of trawler I sailed on in the mid 1970’s out of Lowestoft.

It is that personal connection which prompted me to write this blog post.

In the recently concluded Brexit trade negotiations which went into effect in the UK at 11pm December 31st 2020, one of the most hotly contested areas was fishing rights.

I heard today that the total size, employment of the British Fishing industry is now around 10 or 12 thousand people. In the 1970’s it was around 25,000 people. Since 1990 the Fishing fleet has shrunk by 47%. When I sailed out of Lowestoft in 1974 through 76 there were, I think around one hundred trawlers that sailed from the port. When my wife and I stopped by Lowestoft in 2001 so that I could show her where I had worked – there were only three boats left. The big Companies – Boston Deep Sea, East Coast Fisheries, Fleetwood had all gone. The only one left was the small outfit called Colne and they had shrunk dramatically. 3 Ships. That’s all.

So my own observation does bear out the reported statistics.

I actually understand why the British Government felt that they could compromise with the EU on Fishing rights. And it has nothing to do with “betraying the British Fishing Industry”. The truth is that the British Fishing industry needs to be built up – the infrastructure of ships, maintenance, markets, finances need to be re-established. Fishermen need ot be recruited and trained – you could build more boats but who would skipper them?

The fishing industry went for bigger, more powerful trawlers, big stern draggers that could hold much more fish and travel further. Perhaps now the better idea might be to go with smaller vessels, more modern and safer and can be viable with smaller catches.

There are far too many different threads to this story for one posting to cover. My next one on this subject will be about the boat designs a subject which has fascinated me for a long time.

Until then…