By Rob Wing - founder of The Cornish Fishmonger
As one who was born and brought up in a fishing village on the South Coast of Cornwall, I spent most of my summers mucking around in boats catching mackerel, pollock and gurnard, to say nothing of the odd crab or lobster if one was really lucky whilst peering in between the rocks which protected the quay from winter gales. My childhood experiences led me into a career in fishing which has spanned almost 40 years. I owe my living to the fishing industry I love so much.
It is perhaps unsurprising that I was so adversely affected by watching the 2021 Netflix Seaspiracy film. I can think of no one who would not be filled with sorrow and grief over the exploitation of the world’s oceans. It appears these fisheries are almost unregulated, with nations seemingly unperturbed by their fishermen who, without any thought for the future are pillaging the seas. Something must be done to redress this desperate misuse of our oceans or will we face a complete cessation of wild fish within 30 to 50 years, how horrid a thought that is!
We are so lucky not to live in areas of the world such as West Africa that face the ravages of industrial fishing that stops even the smallest amount of fish and seafood being caught by local people. Local people who so desperately need that food to survive and live. We must face the facts and act before all is lost. It has never been more important that we each take the time to find out where the seafood we eat comes from and the practices used to catch it.
What makes us different to the global fishing industry which Seaspiracy so graphically shared?
We are fortunate that Europe took the steps it did in the late 1990s to regulate and to reduce the activity of fishing within community waters. With up to 60% of fishing vessels cut up for scrap, we were left with a greatly reduced fishing fleet and many folks left the industry to pursue other ways of earning a living.
The near socioeconomic collapse of many fishing villages, most of which survived almost completely on fishing related income, stood the pain which lasted for almost ten years. It means that today, the Cornish fishing industry is populated almost wholly and solely by small, inshore fishing vessels, many of which fish from the 120 or more different landing stations around our coastline. Whilst a hardship felt by many at the time, the benefit of such an industry is, apart from the spread of income that seeps into almost every corner of the coastline, there are no large industrial vessels to hoover up vast amounts of fish.
I believe most ardently, and my colleagues within the local industry share this view; that we are nearing completion of a journey to create a local, independent and renewable fishing industry which, with a following wind, will be available for future generations to enjoy as great food but more importantly a renewable source of income. We're almost there, the signs are looking good. With effective fisheries management based on accurate scientific data, we will see our fish stocks protected for future generations and tasty suppers for us all to enjoy. Twenty-five years on, fishermen greatly value the prospect of handing on their skills and vessels to the next generation of budding fishers and fishing in Cornish waters has a sustainable future!