The Longshore Fishery at Southwold
– Past, Present and Future
Great Britain is still a maritime nation, and fishing has played an important part, and continues to do so. I am often puzzled by the general lack of the most basic knowledge about our country's fishing industry. I have even met people who live in fishing ports and who are unaware that there is a harbour containing commercial fishing vessels a mile or so away! Where information is provided by individuals or organisations, it is often completely inaccurate and intended merely to support their own agendas and biases.
Unlike many other countries, Britain has extremely varied fisheries - from the deep water trawlers of Scotland to the cove boats of the West Country.
I have therefore written this brief article on the Longshore Fishery as it is now, and has been, pursued at Southwold, in Suffolk; in the hope that it will be informative and also go some way towards setting the record straight - if only for this small part of the UK fishing industry.
It is organised into five sections; namely -
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Growing up in Southwold and Walberswick during the 1950's and 60's, with family ties to the longshore fishery over many generations, I spent a lot of my time at Southwold Harbour.
Since then, I have been longshore fishing for both hobby and gain. This has given me an understanding of how hard it is to make a living at this occupation. Nowadays, the fisherman has to contend not only with weather and fishing prospects; but often feels that everyone, from government through to conservationists, is against him. Proliferating rules and bureaucracy, often from the EU (European Union), and then "gold-plated" in Britain, make life even more difficult. At times, local government also seems determined to hammer the nails into the coffin of longshore fishing.
Of course, there are also plenty of armchair "experts" on fishing around to give us the benefit of their knowledge. Even BBC Radio 4 is capable of broadcasting nonsense about "trawlers towing long lines"!
This ignorance extends into the knowledge of the fish caught and what to do with them. In the UK, bass only live in the sea, and we therefore call them BASS, not Sea-Bass. Similarly, few people know the difference between the true monkfish and anglerfish.
Fishermen do not generally receive a favourable "press"; usually being shown as greedy and ruthless exploiters of the sea. This may have been the case in the past, and certainly is true of some of our EU neighbours. In more enlightened fishing circles, there is a genuine desire to sustain fisheries and ensure a future for both fish and fishermen. The non-EU countries of Iceland and Norway have shown the world how to manage fisheries, and it is to be regretted that our membership of the EU apparently makes it impossible to follow their extremely successful methods.
I hope that after reading about this East Coast fishery, (which is only one among many in the United Kingdom) you will know that not every fishing boat is an 80-foot (24 metre) monster trawler; and that haddock don't abound at Southwold!
For information and the Government view, look at the CEFAS website particularly the "Publications" section.
The National Federation of Fishermens' Organisations website offers the fisherman's viewpoint.
To help make this article easier to navigate, it is arranged in sections. Click the links below to navigate back and forth - or use the BACK and NEXT buttons on each page to move about.