Fishing is a vocation for Cornish fishermen; most have followed their fathers and brothers to sea, some for the love of it, others from necessity. The unseen cost of catching our seafood has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Deep-sea fishing is still rated as the most dangerous civil occupation in our country. Every time a vessel is booked to sail from her home port there is a possibility, however small it might be and for whatever reason, she may not return home then, a wife becomes a widow and her children loose their father.
Fishermen are hunters, fiercely independent and passionate about fish. Their income is derived from a "share of the proceeds of the catch." The last ten years have been amongst the hardest ones for many generations of Cornish fishermen, with regulations biting into catches and rising fuel costs reducing modest wages down to breadline levels. Fishermen battle with the elements every time they go to sea; I've lost count of the times I've chatted to skippers landing their catches for sale at the early morning quayside markets and heard, "we had a close one last night" or, "we should never have been at sea in this weather but.... needs must"!
It is not all doom and gloom, there is goods news on the horizon; the hardships of the past decade and the changes seen in our fishing communities are now paying dividends. It's early days but for while now I have seen catches improving, as stocks continue to recover. Most of our boats are now profitable, even if we have a way to go to return to the levels of the past decades. I sense a feel of optimism as I walk the quays; fish quotas (the amount of fish we are allowed to catch) are now set at more realistic levels, safeguarding the growth of fish stocks but also allowing fishermen to reap a reasonable living for their days at sea.
Cornwall continues to invest in the growth of fish stocks around our coasts, ensuring there will be a bright future for fish, fisherman and fish lovers. Extensive work has been carried out to improve the efficiency of fishing gear; helping to catch only marketable sized fish. Significant investments are being made in "greener" fishing techniques, more fuel-efficient engines and the building of new vessels that have smaller carbon footprints.
I leave you with one final thought; next time you are selecting your favourite fresh seafood for supper; reflect for a moment on the effort and commitment of the fishermen who brave the elements to bring ashore such exciting seafood for your enjoyment. Take comfort that you are helping to support the last of our wild food hunters and make your purchase count - buy local seafood!