Category Archives: Sustainable fishing

Selling our first fish!!

We’ve finally had a patch of fair weather, which has been perfect for us to get out on Kensa and try out our kit. Monday was sunny with light winds but with stronger easterlies forecast for the rest of the week, so we decided to keep Kensa in the shelter of Percuil and head out to marks near there to fish.

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We were keen to try sailing Kensa up and down over a mark and practising fishing both under full sail and with the main brailed up, so we headed about half a mile south of the Lighthouse to fish round a mark down there. It was ideal conditions for there; the wind was light and easterly and not forecast to shift, so perfect for a beam reach in and out, meaning it was quick for us to sail both there and back, with no need to tack. Once we got down there we set about fishing up and down over the mark by tacking upwind under main and mizzen while trailing weighted lures and then sailing downwind back over the area with the main brailed up and the mizzen alone. Within a short while we were catching quite well, so we did this three or four times, by which time the wind had filled in slightly and the sea had built up a bit of an uncomfortable lumpy swell. We hadn’t had a bite for about half an hour, so we decided to head in.

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All in all it was a really good day; we managed to get Kensa working really well bar a few snags which we’re sorting out this week while the wind is fresh from the east. Nothing serious; for example, the mast needed wedging in its foot to avoid it clanking around when the main’s brailed up and we’re drifting. It was doing that quite a bit on Monday and managing to turn itself as it did so, meaning the yard ended up wrapped around the mast a couple of times. That’s now fixed and Si has also made Kensa a knife rack in which to handily store the fish killing equipment! Which we might actually need now it would seem! It wasn’t exactly a bumper catch, but the other great thing about Monday was the satisfaction of heading in with a respectable box of pollock.

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Respectable enough to sell, in fact! We are delighted to say that within half and hour of arriving back into Percuil The Atlantic Fryer, a brilliant fish and chip van in Portscatho, had become our first official customer! Ross fries all his fish to order in beef dripping and makes his own chips, batter, mushy peas and pretty much anything else you could want with your fish and chips. They are the yummiest we’ve ever tasted so we were happy with our first ever sale!

Atlantic Fryer

And it would seem that everyone else was too; Kensa pollock sold out quickly and we’ve had requests for more. So we’d better get catching again soon!

Ross

Learning to fish

So by now the boat’s good, the weather’s good and the fishing’s good. It’s just the catching that’s the problem… It’s not just what we can catch in terms of our fishing abilities (or lack thereof!) but also what we can catch without being locked up for gross shellfish embezzlement and lobster lifting.

Kensa near Killigerran

Every time we’ve been out on Kensa in the last couple of weeks, it’s been to test out a new arrangement of rigging, or the ballast tank, or to practise using a new bit of kit. While we’ve been out we’ve been fishing with hand lines in a ‘might as well try for some fish while we’re out here’ sort of way. Kensa’s moored up the Percuil River at the moment, so getting out to decent spots to fish takes a while. Without an engine, we have to tack up or down the river at least once and there’s reasonably strong tide to contend with too. We’ve caught a few mackerel and pollock on these trips, but we’re talking enough for a very tasty dinner or two. Not enough to sell. So although it’s possible to fish like this, it’s certainly not profitable. Had we sold the mackerel we caught the other day when we went out to test out the pollock board (it did not catch any pollocks but worked as a marvellous sea anchor!), it would have been the most expensive fish ever sold once we’d taken into account the three hours spent getting back in from the lighthouse against a strong ebb tide and a gusty northerly.

Simon and Stella

None of this is a great surprise to us, and to an extent such is the nature of fishing. We were never planning to base our business around fishing from Percuil, even if we’d hoped the weather might have allowed us to have made some more trips from there with a greater return by now. There’s a lot we can do to improve on this.

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Firstly, as we’d always planned, we’re moving Kensa round to Portscatho as soon as possible. The weather is much more settled, strong easterlies are unlikely (although not impossible) in the summer months and we should be able to work in Gerrans Bay from a mooring in the pit from now until the autumn. We will probably need to pull her out for any strong east sector weather that comes our way, but that’s to be expected. So on that front we’ve been getting together all the kit we need to lay a mooring here and we’ll do that as soon as we get a day with light enough conditions to do so. It’ll make a real difference to us to be able to get to fishing grounds almost as soon as we leave the harbour and we’ll learn a lot quicker when we’ve got plenty of space and fishing areas to play in.

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So what are we going to do to catch more fish?! Clearly experience is not on our side, but this is all part and parcel of what we’re doing. We need to find ourselves good fishing marks and learn how to target the right species with the right kit. We’ve been identifying as many established and known marks as possible and every time we go out we’ll find more places that are good for catching fish. Or we’ll find more places that aren’t good for catching fish….either way we’ll build up our knowledge over time. Here’s a mark we found the other day. It’s called Shit Rock.

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So this brings us to our choice of tools for the job and the vast possibilities that lie ahead for blaming them if we don’t catch any fish… The first thing we’ll be using is a pollock board. This was recommended to us by a friend fishing from a similarly sized boat in Newlyn, who really rates his and uses it often. It’s basically a rig of lures which you troll for pollock with, along with a small plastic dive board which is attached nearest the boat and designed to sink until you’ve caught fish or are going too slowly, at which point it bobs to the surface. We may have had limited (no) success with this so far, but this is likely to be because weather conditions and time constraints meant we could only get far enough to try it out over predominantly sandy ground. This is not ideal for catching pollocks, who are like the emos of the fish world and prefer to hang out in dark rocky wrecky places, listening to depressive soft punk.

Setting the pollock board

Secondly, hand lines. Or a variation thereof. We’ll continue to use basic hand lines and spinners or feathers for catching mackerel but we’ll upgrade a bit for everything else. We’ve been setting up poles that we can use for catching bass that will fix to the boat and extend outwards like big fishing rods; the idea being that you can have four lines with lures fishing at one time while moving along without them tangling with each other or getting in your way. This is used quite a bit by inshore fishing boats and should suit our set up well. We’re making these up at the moment and will try them out soon. If you don’t hear much about them for a while we probably haven’t got the hang of them yet. If, however, we catch a monster bass using them I will shamelessly post photos on every social media network available.

Thirdly, we’ve got pots. I mentioned a bit about these last time. Everything’s going well with getting all the kit together and we’ve got great places for catching crab and lobster in Gerrans Bay, but we hit a bit of a snag with these today. Basically, the rules are that unless you have a shellfish permit (free to obtain for anyone fishing commercially) you aren’t permitted to land more than two crabs or lobsters in total in any one day.  Once you get a permit, you can land as many as you like (provided they aren’t berried females (pregnant) or undersized). So we went about getting a permit as we’d always planned and discovered that only registered boats are eligible. This is a problem for us; as you probably know by now, we fit into a strange niche in fishing legislation, being under 10 metres and unpowered other than by sail and oar. This means that we don’t need to be registered and therefore don’t need to fish with a licence or quota. This is brilliant on most levels, but scuppers us when it comes to obtaining shellfish permits and funding for useful things like insulated fish boxes amongst others. We spoke to the lovely people at Cornwall IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) to clarify our position and they confirmed that unfortunately despite operating formally, openly and within the law, they will not be able to issue us with a permit. So this season at least, we will be selling crab and lobster but no more than two a day. They will be priced at £150 each, on a first come first served basis.*

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On the subject of licensing, it is now pretty much definite that licensing will be brought in shortly for our category. It is not certain exactly when this will be or how it will work, but from what we understand it is likely to be akin to the process of obtaining a tax disc for an old car that is exempt; you fill in the paperwork and get a tax disc but you don’t pay anything. It shouldn’t change much in practice, but everyone fishing from an unpowered sub-ten boat will be accounted for and able to be monitored. As IFCA explained, once this happens we will be able to get a permit for shellfish. So the future is bright and lobster coloured.

Kensa at sea

Finally, we’ll be using nets. This is likely to be our bread and butter and should bring in more fish than any other method. There are lots of different types of nets of different sizes and shapes available depending on what you’re trying to catch, but the type we’ll be using are called gill nets. These are vertical panel nets that you set in a straight line, weighted at the bottom and anchored to the sea bed and secured at the top with floats. Essentially an underwater tennis net. Nets, and gill nets in particular, are controversial and we’re aware of this. The controversy stems from the high efficiency of gill nets, which means they are associated with a high incidence of bycatch. Gill nets work by trapping fish in the mesh as they try to swim through the net and historically this has meant that both protected species and undersized fish have been needlessly caught using this method. However, gill netting is now much more closely monitored and there are regulations in place regarding minimum mesh size and location. Furthermore, it is the case that gill nets that are set correctly with the right mesh size are not only highly effective but also highly selective. We’ve taken all this into consideration when deciding to use nets and when buying them and we’ve also gone to several authorities and individuals for advice. We’ll be using two different gill nets with different mesh sizes, both designed to catch only larger fish. One will target bass and the other mainly pollock and cod. Both have mesh sizes well over the minimum measurement and have been proven to fish with very little bycatch (small fish just swim through the mesh) and environmental impact. We want to use the most sustainable methods practicable and we’re happy that this set up meets our aims.

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We also spoke to IFCA about the issue of outboards. This is something we’ve been pondering for a while. Clearly we are neither allowed nor intending to use an outboard as a means of propulsion while fishing or travelling to and from fishing. That’s fine; we have no desire to do this and are not about to spend all this time designing and building a boat and business around unpowered fishing only to slap an outboard on the transom and try to get away with it. It goes against everything we’re working to do. But it’s been niggling us that working from a boat with only sails and oars poses a safety issue. We would far rather be able to get an outboard out of a locker and attach it to Kensa to motor ourselves out of difficulty in the (ideally only ever hypothetical) case of adverse weather or gear failure than to have to call the lifeboat out. Similarly, we don’t ever want to be in the position of being able to get someone else out of danger but for an engine that we had decided not to carry onboard.  We feel it would be irresponsible to ourselves and others not to, so we’re telling you and everyone now that that’s what we’ll be doing!

Stella and the mackerel head

Our final, high risk fishing method involves the dog. She’s been mightily interested in fishing and boats so far, loves being out on the water and jumps in the punt before we can get a look in. The only things we’ve come home to find destroyed so far are the covers of two books; one about boat design and the other about fishing. So she’s clearly a clever discerning dog. She’s also a massive fan of fish. She saw us catch a mackerel the other day and was very interested in it indeed. We gave her the head to eat while we were barbecuing the rest of it and she loved it. So our plan is to train her up to sniff out the shoals for us. In the best case scenario we’ve just given her a taste for fishing and for mackerel; in the worst case we’ve just given her a taste for sitting on a boat and trying to eat everything we catch. Either way training a mackerel hound is worth a try. Frankly we need all the help we can get!

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*Not really. They will be normally priced, but we will take bribes.

Fishing for the Hungry Sailors

We had pretty poor weather between filming with the Strawbridges on Kensa and them cooking for us and only a couple of days in which we could reasonably catch fresh enough fish for them to cook. But luckily the day before the dinner we were blessed with some sunshine and quiet weather so we left Percuil as the sun was rising and headed down the river for our first full day of fishing! There was very little wind but Kensa went nicely under full sail until just off Amsterdam Point where the breeze died completely and we had to row for a bit.

We stopped off in St Mawes to pick up Debs then headed out to St Anthony and round the lighthouse to try out some new spots. It was very quiet once we were round the corner with only an unimpressed seal and a couple of shags for company. Not having an engine does have its downsides, but fishing without any background noise is very peaceful indeed.

We had a good chance to practise handling Kensa under sail in the morning; brailing up the main sail (gathering it up into itself quickly using a rope on a pulley-type system) when we wanted to cut speed quickly and working out how close to the wind she’d sail, what she’d tack through and so on. Essentially like a Top Gear road test of a new vehicle, except without the bigotry.

Happily we caught quite a few decent sized pollack in the morning, along with a couple of mackerel which we were rather hoping might turn into a shoal but didn’t. After we’d dropped Debs off in St Mawes and grabbed some lunch / shamelessly admired Kensa looking pretty on the beach, we headed back out again, this time in search of bass which The Hungry Sailors were keenest to cook. No joy, but plenty more pollack and lots more fishing under sail until the light faded and we were forced to head back up the river.

So despite a lack of bass, we had a great day fishing and were very happy to deliver three beautifully fresh and generously sized pollack to the TV crew in St Mawes the following day. Dick and James Strawbridge cooked us a delicious meal that lunchtime, featuring our Kensa-caught pollack in a beurre blanc as a starter!

The Hungry Sailors!

We’re going to be on telly! Look, here is a picture of us with some slebs!!

A few weeks ago we spent a couple of days doing some filming with Denhams for an ITV series called The Hungry Sailors in which father and son Dick and James Strawbridge sail around the Cornish coast, meeting local food producers and cooking meals using the ingredients they source. We took the Strawbridges out on Kensa for a couple of hours, then later in the week ate a delicious dinner cooked by them in St. Mawes featuring some of our pollack caught from Kensa only a mile or so away the day before!

The series is due to be screened on ITV sometime early next year and as soon as we know dates and times we’ll let you know!

Seafish 3 Week Introduction to Fishing Course in Newlyn

Si finished his Seafish 3 week Introduction to Fishing course down in Newlyn last Friday and is now the proud holder of a shiny new certificate! The course was delivered by Seafood Cornwall Training and Simon was one of a dozen people to be the first batch of candidates to be fully funded to do this course in Cornwall.

The course provided a general overview of the fishing industry and was a mixture of practical and theoretical elements, broken up with trips down to the harbour and to the market to demonstrate what was being talked about in practice. There was also opportunity to talk to people on different fishing boats and chat to them about how they worked.

The course content focussed on a wide variety of subjects from gear construction and navigation to basic engineering and health and safety. By the end of the three weeks, as well as having had the opportunity to use the tools and techniques to make and rig nets, handle and maintain boats and their systems, everyone also left with up to date qualifications in first aid, food hygiene, sea survival and fire fighting.

The teaching was all of a very high standard; without exception the course was taught by industry professionals, and each day was filled to capacity. Si’s found there’s been a lot to take in! Throughout the course there was a strong focus on sustainability, highlighting technical observation methods to produce better productivity and selectivity in fishing. It was clear to Si that Seafish are trying to change the ethos of how people get into fishing and to change working practice for the better.

Si feels a lot more confident now knowing there are other young people choosing to go into fishing, and is extremely grateful to everyone at Seafood Cornwall Training for providing the opportunity and organising the course so well. Having had a chance to talk to people in the business about what they perceive the industry to be, he’s also come away with a strong feeling that there are a lot of public misconceptions about the fishing industry.

Simon was surprised by how easily people talked to him and the other candidates, despite being total newcomers to the industry. Everyone was very ready to answer questions and give opinions and advice freely. Newlyn is good example of one of the few remaining British communities devoted to one industry; almost every person Si met in Newlyn had something to do with fishing, whether it was crewing, delivering, marketing or processing. There are five fish shops in Newlyn, and other than a few small food shops, every other business is related to fishing supplies or support. It was a reminder that unless an industry is supported you can easily lose a whole community. Changes in legislation have a huge bearing on a situation like this and this was a topic which came up again and again.

There seems to be a general feeling that although fishing policies of the past have been frustrating they have also led to the rebuilding of stocks that were quite seriously endangered before. So although legislation is by no means all seen as negative, there is understandable frustration about those regulations still in force that penalise fishermen unnecessarily and lead to high fuel costs, discards and non-sustainable fishing. For example, the perception amongst fishermen based on the fish they are catching is that cod is currently booming. However, the figures for available cod given in scientists’ data and that which is reflected in practice are produced are often collected years apart, and so fishermen experience considerable delay before the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) can address the discrepancies and increase the cod quota accordingly (by 150% in January).

In our experience, public perception of the fishing industry tends to view fishermen using higher impact forms of fishing such as beam trawling as destructive and indifferent to the environmental consequences of their activities. However, as we understand it, things are by no means as simple as this. Although it would be ideal if everyone was fishing sustainably from small boats using hook and line this is not currently practical or viable on the large commercial scale of demand that Britain’s reduced offshore fleet is expected to meet, and without better support it is not possible for them to implement lower impact sustainable methods of fishing.

Si would definitely say that the fishermen he spoke to are more than aware of stocks that are and aren’t safe. They have a very good understanding of sustainability in fishing but lack investment from the government to implement it. Si was shocked by how incredibly expensive commercial fishing boats are and what they cost to run. For example, a set of chain mats for a trawl costing in the thousands will last about four months and then they’ll wear out. Gear has to be replaced on a regular basis and it doesn’t come cheaply; wreck netters have a guy employed ashore permanently who gets a share of the catch because they get destroyed so frequently. So to keep trying new things to improve the situation with regard to sustainability is costly. Every innovation is expensive and fishermen are having to fund it, while often being painted in the media as the villains of the piece.

In fact, everyone Si spoke to was gutted (excuse the pun…) about the issue of discards. It costs fishermen money to catch fish they can’t land; they’ve still had to pay for these fish to be towed along in a net, killed and thrown back over. Imagine if you spent all day doing a supermarket shop; spent hours picking up products, stacking your trolley and pushing it around the store, queuing at the till, spending your money then packing your bags and car boot. Imagine you then get home and unpack it and are forced to throw half of it in the bin knowing it could be eaten. You’d be pretty angry about it.

The issue of discards and quotas was highlighted last year by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight. In one episode Hugh looks at discard on a North Sea trawler, and cooks a meal using some of the fish caught that cannot be landed because it is over quota. The rest of the bycatch is thrown away, and they calculate that the fish could have fed two thousand people. You can see a clip here or watch all the episodes here.

There is a sense that the British fishing industry should be better supported by the government in terms of better education and support for boats. It is sometimes seen as a career that you do if you’ve got nothing else and it shouldn’t be. There are extremely skilled people working in fishing and this is underappreciated. Hopefully courses like these will go some way to changing this.

Fishing under Sail

I found out about the early day motion mentioning Classic Boat’s Eco Fishing Boat Design Competition while I was looking around to find out more about other people fishing under sail. The St Ives Jumbo Association is an organisation devoted to the revival of the small wooden lug rigged beach boats that used to work out of St Ives, called Jumbos, and their website was one of the first I visited. Local boatbuilder Johnny Nance has been instrumental in using old documentation, pictures and sketches to build two new Jumbos, and in fact the Jumbo was featured in the original brief for the Classic Boat design competition. The first, Celeste, was launched in 2007 and was followed in 2010 by William Paynter. The page on the Association’s website dedicated to fishing under sail goes some way to explaining the difficulties facing those trying to fish commercially from an unpowered boat, and provides excellent links to reactions from MPs, including the early day motion. You can find more information here.  We’ve been trying to get in contact with the Association with a view to sharing our progress, given that we’ll be aiming to achieve the same outcome from what are in essence very similar boats.

Fish for the Future is another project I came across; a cruising catamaran refitted as a fishing boat and operating under sail from Devon by John Pedersen. It was very helpful to read about his experiences of dealing with licensing and MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) inspections on his page about commercial fishing under sail and the law. I have since gathered from his latest blog post that he has decided to stop fishing, on the basis that he was simply not catching enough fish. This was mainly due to the need for a crew member at all times and the restrictions of operating solely under sail, mainly due to reduced manoeuvrability. We really hope that by designing a smaller boat that can operate under sail and oar we should be able to embrace more fishing techniques and still be able to manoeuvre efficiently.

We’ve also come across Revival of Working Sail Ltd, a non-profit making company based in Cornwall and aiming to restore and use traditional sailing working vessels.  In addition, and very encouragingly, we’ve been contacted by a Looe based fisherman who fishes under sail on a Yealm crabber.

Finally, there is the Falmouth oyster fishery. Every year between October and April, several boats work around the Carrick Roads under sail and oar to harvest the native wild oysters that are protected by law. The boats are a mixture of tow punts which work under oar, and larger gaff rigged boat which work under sail. Due to laws made in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the oyster beds from over-fishing, the oyster boats are obliged to keep to this season and unpowered method of fishing. Of course, the inefficiency of fishing under sail rather than under power assures limited dredging, which in turn assures the survival of the oyster stocks. As a result, these laws have provided for the conservation of the wild Fal oysters for centuries, and allowed the survival of the last working sailing fishing fleet in Europe. You can find out more about Falmouth oysters and oyster boats from the Falmouth Oyster FestivalCornish Native Oysters and Cornish Shellfish.

There are also other people out there who are using sail power to propel their boats, even if not as a primary source of propulsion. Powered fishing boats have continued to use mizzens (a small sail at the back of the boat) as a means of stabilising long after the end of the era of sail. However, there are also a few commercial fishing boats looking at using sails to reduce fuel costs, especially on downwind legs of trips to or from fishing grounds, including our friends at Filmer’s Fish. It was also interesting to see an article in this week’s Fishing News talking about using kite type sails on powered commercial fishing boats and other power boats up to 65ft.

The kites mentioned in the article are being manufactured by a French company Omega Sails. A similar method has also been used by Skysails who supply large kites deployed at an altitude of several hundred feet from cargo ships. The fuel saving calculations offered by these companies are fairly staggering.  Skysails suggests that in optimal conditions, fuel consumption can be halved. It’ll be interesting to see how these develop in the future.

Classic Boat Design Competition 2010

In November 2009 Classic Boat magazine launched a competition to design an inshore fishing boat under 10m using only sail or oars, with a deadline of 28th February 2010. The brief encouraged the incorporation of targeting sustainable fishing methods into the design, and it caught our attention. You can read it here: Classic Boat Design Competition Brief

Unfortunately (or not!), in November 2009 Simon and I were in the middle of France, making our way through the canal system to the Med on our boat Planet. It wasn’t until about two weeks before the deadline, when Simon’s parents came to see us bearing gifts of sailing magazines that we found out about the competition at all. Si debated whether to enter or not, but decided that even with minimal time and resources for research (dial-up speed internet at 5 euros an hour being all that was available where we were by then) it was worth a try.

It might seem a bit of an obvious progression now, but at the time we weren’t thinking of any connection between this and what we’d do when we got home. Si managed by the skin of his teeth to get a design sent off by the deadline, resolved to go back  and make several changes he had not had time to incorporate at a later date and we thought little more about it, knowing that it would be another few months before results were published. We were more concerned with getting from Marseille to Greece in that time, so any design work got shelved for the time being as we spent most of our time sailing. It wasn’t until we got a phone call from a friend while we were anchored in a lovely bay in the Northern Sporades sometime in the June or July of 2010 that we found out that Simon had been given joint third place. You can read the results in Classic Boat‘s July 2010 edition.

The feedback Si got from the competition judges was mixed, but ultimately encouraging, and has been very useful when revising the design more recently. When Simon sat down to design our fishing boat a couple of months ago, his sketches and the brief from Classic Boat were obvious places to start. The judges’ principal criticisms of Si’s design and any subsequent changes or comments he has made are as follows:

1. The amidships sections are too round. Fair comment. Si has since adjusted these to provide better initial stability and flatter mid sections.

2. The sheer is too straight. Traditional Cornish boats have always tended to be relatively flat sheered for reasons of economy and because of building constraints. Lines plans of old designs confirm this. Si has kept this in his latest design for both aesthetic and practical reasons.

3. The bilge keels are too deep. Simon’s design is no longer bilge keeled; despite being a practical keel profile for a beach boat, it is less appropriate for fishing as from what we have gathered bilge keels have a tendency to snag fish when handlining. Furthermore, they are a more costly option to build.

4. A self-draining working deck is unrealistic given the design submitted. Also fair comment. Latest design does not specify a self-draining working area in any case as the overall length has been reduced and this is no longer practical or necessary.

5. The main mast is too far forward. The main mast would be too far forward if it was going to be built out of a solid spar. However, Si is planning to use hollow spars and has filled out the forward waterlines so the weight distribution will work well with this arrangement.

Simon is confident that the majority of issues raised are either no longer relevant or have since been resolved, and in any case the design is taking on more of its own direction the more we find out about the parameters within which we’ll be working.

The eventual winner of the competition, James Wharram, is actually based near us at Devoran and has been a successful yacht designer for over fifty years. We were delighted to find the other day that he has now launched the first example of his winning design, Amatasi 27. She is a 27ft sprit rigged catamaran yawl based on the traditional canoe boats found in the Pacific.  Amatasi is designed to be built either in ply and epoxy, or in timber planking. From the sounds of things there is quite a bit of interest in the design already, and we hope this continues to go well.

The Classic Boat Eco Fishing Boat Design Competition also led to various MPs proposing an early day motion praising the magazine for launching the competition. An early day motion (for those who like me had no idea what this was when they first read about it) is a formal motion that is submitted for debate in the House of Commons. Very few are ever actually debated, but  individual MPs can sign these motions to pledge their support and raise awareness of an issue. Basically, as far as I can tell, they are the ‘like’ button on Facebook or the car windscreen sticker equivalent of the world of Parliament. More about this and fishing under sail and oar in the next post…

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.

Millican and Teach a Man to Fish

While we were exploring West Cornwall on Monday, we got an exciting development in our project. Our friend Jack called to tell us that a company he works with wanted to feature Teach a Man to Fish on their website. Millican is a Cumbria based company making eco-friendly canvas bags and accessories and promoting sustainable living. In fact, the company is named after Millican Dalton, an original advocate of the low-carbon simple lifestyle, who moved from London to the Lake District in the early twentieth century to lead a self-sufficient life. You can read Rob’s awesome blog about us here.

Photo courtesy of Millican