Teach a Man to Fish is a sustainable fishing project running from the village of Portscatho on the south coast of Cornwall. Our aim is to set up a small business catching fish under sail and oar and selling it locally.
There are harbours all over Britain that were once used for fishing. Good harbours where people built villages around an industry that thrived. The competition from intensive fishing and rocketing fuel prices have changed the industry beyond recognition and now most British ports shelter a fraction of the number of fishing boats they did in the past, or else have become virtually unused. Can you imagine putting in planning permission to build harbours like these today? Or finding the funds to build them with? The winds and the tides haven’t changed. These harbours are still protected from the prevailing winds, set within deep and clear channels, on firm enough ground to dry out a boat, near enough to a path, a road, a slipway and, more often than not, a decent pub. And yet the industry they were built for has all but disappeared. Instead of buying fresh fish from a quay or beach two minutes from where it was caught, the majority of the British public buys air-freighted Pacific-caught tuna from a large supermarket, wrapped in plastic and driven home. But there are signs that commercial fishing is changing; if claims by the European fisheries commissioner are to be believed, 2012 will see an end to discard in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy reforms. With a growing emphasis on low food mileage and sustainable fishing, more and more people are looking for fresh fish to be available locally from reliable sources.
Of course there are some brilliant people out there doing just this already. What we want to achieve is nothing new. Small boat fishermen selling top quality line-caught fish to local businesses and customers do exist and indeed this source of fish has grown hugely in popularity and support in the last few years. And yet the problems of fuel costs and quota allocation faced by Britain’s under ten metre fishing fleet continue.
We believe that fishing under sail and oar from a sub ten metre boat has a future. Current EU legislation permits unpowered (i.e. propelled by sail and/or oar only) vessels under 10m in length to fish without a licence, and therefore without a quota. We are lucky enough to live right next to the Fal estuary, home to Europe’s last commercial sailing fishing fleet. The Falmouth Working Boats have been dredging for oysters under sail and oar for centuries, and demonstrate perfectly the viability of fishing in this way. However, despite falling into this category of exemption they have recently been facing a battle over the need for licensing. There seems to be general confusion at government level over the need for licences and registration of unpowered fishing vessels in the under ten category.
Over the next few weeks and months we’re going to be designing and building our boat while trying to find out and learn as much as possible about fish and fishing. We want to untangle the legislation surrounding unpowered commercial fishing and research sustainable and responsible fishing methods that will work. Our hope is that we can prove it is possible for an individual to make a living in this way, and encourage others to do the same. We’ll document it all here with posts on the ‘News’ page of our site. Use the links at the bottom of the page to follow us here, on Facebook and on Twitter. Leave us your comments, email us your advice or just keep in touch with our progress.
UPDATE June 2013: We’re delighted to say we’re now fishing from our boat ‘Kensa’ and selling our catch locally! A huge thank you to everyone for their generosity and support with our project so far. We will continue to update this blog periodically with any news relating to fishing under sail and other relevant information. For all other enquiries, our new website is www.portscathofish.co.uk
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”