Introduction to Fishmongering

Despite a 4.30am start which made me question the point of going to bed the night before at all, we had an excellent day today attending our second fishing industry training course run by Seafood Cornwall Training, in association with Seafish. Today’s course was the ‘Introduction to Fishmongering’ course, and we had a really interesting and informative day. Thank you very much to everyone!

We started off at 6.30am with a tour of Newlyn market and harbour by Andy Wheeler of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation. This was fascinating as we had a chance to look round the market while the buyers were there, with Andy explaining the process to us as we went round. Although the weather’s been poor recently, a couple of beam trawlers had landed in time for market, and there were several boxes ready to be sold. It was predominantly monkfish but there was also a large quantity of cuttlefish, as well as some squid, ray, hake, megrim and whiting amongst others. Once the market finished, despite being well before 9am it felt as though it was about lunchtime, so we all gratefully retreated to the Fishermen’s Mission for a bacon sandwich.

After breakfast we headed off to the harbour where Andy was able to give us some insight into the fishing methods and grounds of many of the boats in the harbour. It was particularly interesting to see a small ring netter used to fish for Cornish sardines (the artist formerly known as pilchards). Despite using traditional methods, the boat’s layout had been designed for purpose with modern efficient equipment to allow sustainable fishing without the same effort and workforce historically required for pilchard fishing.

There were some really interesting people with us on our course. Kevin Penney fishes from Newlyn on his 21ft boat Bess. We were able to have a look at Bess during our harbour tour and she’s a great boat.  It was invaluable to talk to Kevin about his boat and fishing, given that he is already catching line caught fish using sustainable methods from an under ten metre boat. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_penney or via the South West Handline Fishermen Assocation (Tag no. 101).

We also met Lynda Filmer, who fishes with her husband from Helford on their catamaran Emily Jane. They fish mainly using static nets, taking care to catch their fish and shellfish as sustainably as possible, avoiding bycatch and unnecessary environmental impact. They also have a sailing rig on their boat in order to economise on fuel when conditions allow. I was delighted to meet someone who’s already fishing as part of a husband and wife team, and you can have a look at their website here.

Finally, we had a chance to catch up with Charlotte Taffinder, who runs a farm shop from Curgurrell Farm just a few miles from us in Portscatho.  Her family have two under ten metre fishing boats that supply the shop with fish and are the only remaining commercial fishing boats working from Portscatho. It was great to exchange notes about our thoughts and plans.

The remainder of the day was devoted to learning some of the skills required of a fishmonger, building on what we’d learned in our filleting course at Cornwall College. This was led by Annie Sibert, who also runs her own seafood school My Fish Kitchen in Mawnan Smith, and who taught our fantastic fish filleting course two weeks ago.

We spent some time discussing our businesses and talking about the issues relevant to running a fish shop such as quality awareness, marketing and presentation. Finally, we watched Annie start to put together an arrangement of fish for a shop counter, and finished the day by completing the display ourselves as a group. There was a lot to think about today; ideas I would never have considered and first-rate advice from experts in the industry, and we drove home utterly wired on coffee and four hours’ sleep.

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