Did you know, the current average age of a UK fisher is now 58? New entrants to the industry are at an all-time low and young new entrants are even rarer. Young people are not seeing fishing as a viable career, and there is little support for those that do. It’s time to make a change and attract brilliant young new talent to our fishing ports.
For the first time in UK fishing, we are putting young people at the heart of decision making here in Cornwall. Together with the CFPO, we have developed a formal Youth Board, made up of young fishermen, young people with an interest in the industry, and a host of maritime experts.
This Youth Board will hold us to account as we develop programmes of work designed to improve recruitment and retention for Cornish fishing. They will test our ideas, provide honest and relevant feedback, and help us find the best ways to provide new opportunities for young entrants.
Aidan finished college in June 2018 but had been fishing during summer holidays for years before.
He went to college to study marine engineering so he could use his skills when out fishing. He also thought it would be useful when he had his own boat with an engine that might need fixing.
Aidan found his studies useful, continuing to fish on the odd days with his dad and uncle, but his heart wasn’t in it. As soon as he finished his course he was back on the water!
'Fishing is a good career for me because every day you go to sea is the unknown - you never know what you are going to get. You have good days and bad but it’s always different.
`I don’t think young people are aware that there is a great potential to earn money if you stick at it.’
'I like that every day is a school day, there’s always something to learn. You could be learning rope work one day to where the fish are moving the next.'
Aidan’s advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Start down the harbourside, ask around and go to places like Seafood Cornwall Training as that’s where I did my ticket to get qualified - it’s training on the ground.'
Tom was fishing as soon as his mum let him out on the water! At six years old he was out having fun on boats in Cornwall handlining for mackerel and potting for shrimps in Newlyn, and at twelve he was allowed to skipper his own small boat where he would fish after school and in the summer holidays for mackerel.
Tom is from a fishing family and has always loved being on his Dad’s boat, the Lyonesse. After completing his A-levels Tom obtained a 1st class honours degree in Chemistry from Cardiff University. After finishing, Tom got straight back on the water in Cornwall as he knew he wanted a career as a fisherman.
'The freedom of being out on a good day of fishing and the opportunity to be your own boss is what makes fishing an amazing career. If you have a good day of fishing you can be rewarded richly and it makes all the hard work worth it.'
Tom has been working as crew on the Lyonesse but recently he made a huge step forward and bought his own boat, My Lass. Tom is proud to be a boat owner and a future skipper at just 23.
Tom’s advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'You need lots of motivation and you have to really want it. Fishing becomes more of a way of life rather than a job once you get into it'
James has been working as a fisherman and an RNLI lifeboat volunteer for ten years, but has been around boats since he was little.
He wanted to get into fishing as soon as he finished school but his family persuaded him to go to college to study marine engineering. Like all our youth board members, fishing was never put on the table as a viable career and James was the only one in his whole school that turned to fishing after college.
Once college ended James wanted to get out on fishing boats to get some experience. His great grandfather was a fisherman but neither his dad nor granddad were, so he had to spend a lot of time hanging around the harbour asking to work as crew on other boats. It was worth it, he says!
'Fishing isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. You can be your own boss, you have your own responsibilities and it’s so beautiful, especially in the summer.
‘I love being able to make a living without having to leave Cornwall, but it does take a certain type of mind to be a fisherman. Even when you are at home you are always planning ahead and thinking of where to fish and what to do tomorrow. Even when you aren’t fishing you are thinking about fishing!'
James’ advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t look at it as a money earner… it’s a lot of hours but it’s all about having a love for the job, not the money. Don’t be afraid to try different areas of fishing, try every job, and chances are you will find something you love.'
Ben has been fishing since he left school and always dreamt of doing it as a career. His dad, however, who is a fisherman, wanted a different life for him.
Ben ended up in the armed forces, climbing the ranks as an engineer to a position where he could take any warship to sea as an engineering officer.
After 12 years in the navy, Ben felt like it was time to hang up his uniform and reach for his oilskins for good. He used the money he had saved up from the navy to buy a fishing boat and a fishing gear business.
'Fishing is a good career for me because you can leave all your worries at the harbourside, and never knowing what you’re going to get each day is exciting.
‘Fishing is all about putting the time in. If you put the time in then you will get paid well; if you don’t, you won’t get paid well.'
Ben’s advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: ‘You’ve got to give it a go and put your whole heart into it. Take everything anyone says about fishing with a pinch of salt and learn from the younger fishermen as they want to teach you.
‘There’s loads of banter in the industry - it’s part of fishing. Just don’t take it to heart! Prove your worth and make sure you start on the smaller inshore boats as they often have more time to help you.’
Chris has been fishing out of Mevagissey for nine years but, like many fishermen from fishing families, he was out on the water as soon as he could walk!
Chris went straight from school to college and then on to university to study Geology, as his Dad wanted him to have multiple career options.
Ultimately, however, the ocean called him back to Cornwall as he loved the lifestyle and knew it could provide a good life for him.
'Fishing is a good career for me because I like the freedom, I like not being in a 9 to 5 job and I love the camaraderie that comes with the industry. If I want to earn more money I can work harder, but if I don’t need to, I don’t have to. If you work hard and get done what you need to do, you can go home early.'
Chris’ advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Get lots of experience on lots of different boats. Fishing is so different on big boats and little boats so try and get on as many as you can and see what you like.'
Brett has been fishing commercially on and off since he was 20 but he always takes every opportunity he can to get back to fishing.
He’s had a diverse range of work since finishing college, including skippering yachts in exotic places and working offshore at a wind farm. After working on the windfarm for two weeks on and two weeks off for eight years, he’s coming back to fishing full time next spring and he couldn’t be happier about it!
'Fishing is a good career for me because there’s no other job quite like it. And we’re only small-scale so we’re home everyday - it is such a nice way of life! In Cadgwith we are fishing the same way as generations did before us, it’s sustainable and that’s important.'
Brett’s advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Come down to the cove to look and chat to some of the guys. Try and get out on a small boat as they are only out for 8-10 hours max - start on small boats so you don’t get put off.'
Buck has been fishing since he left school when he was just 14. He always knew school wasn’t for him so was a bit of a troublemaker during lessons.
To ‘get rid of him’ he managed to persuade his teachers to let him fish for four days a week and called it ‘extended work experience’!
'Fishing is a good career for me because I enjoy being at sea, I am not someone who can sit in an office and take orders.
‘I have known no different, but I don’t want to. It’s a way of life. Some days are amazing - you get a good catch and the sun has been shining all day. And you think: Who would want anything else? It’s paradise and you get paid for doing it.'
Bucks' advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Try and find a day boat that will take you out. Chuck yourself into it. Freddie suffered really badly from seasickness and he’s cracked it now, but it took him a while. It can be a rocky road if you have never been on a boat but you need to try it!'
Will has been fishing since 2005 but has grown up around the industry.
He went to college but packed it in after a couple of months as he knew he was always going to be a fisherman. Even in the evenings after school, Will used to ring net after school with David Pascoe (owner and skipper of Serine Dawn). Now, he skippers a vessel in the same fishery.
'Fishing is a good career for me because you get a really good lifestyle. You are more committed to it than other jobs so it's more of your life than a job. It’s not all about the money, but, if you put a lot of effort in, you get great rewards. You are learning all the time - fishing is the school of hard knocks.'
Will’s advice to a young person looking to start out in the industry: 'Take the bull by the horns and go for it, but be prepared for some sacrifice. It’s all about the lifestyle: if you can take to the lifestyle you will love it. You’ve got the big boats, small boats, potting, handlining - there’s so many different sides to it. One job is not the same.'
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