On a secluded little cove in Cadgwith, early in the morning, about eight fishing boats gather for a day’s work. In true Cornish community style, they all start at the same time to help each other launch the boats. But once they’re on the sea, the boats go their separate ways in search of the perfect catch…
And on board one of those little eight fishing boats is Brett Jose. Skipper of an offshore wind farm transfer vessel for two weeks of the month, and fisherman when he’s back home for the other two. Brett’s Dad has been a fisherman most of his life, and having been brought up in the heart of Cadgwith’s fishing community, Brett says it was unlikely he would’ve chosen to do anything else! Fortunately, his Father’s passion for fishing has rubbed off on him; “I certainly wouldn’t be doing it in my time off from the wind farms if I didn’t love it!”
As many Cornish folk will love to tell you, fishing in Cornwall is so special because it’s ingrained in the county’s history. “There’s loads of fishermen who have been fishing in little coves and harbours for generations. And they’re still doing it! There’s lots of us still here, on the beaches, doing it small-scale.”
But as well as the local community, Cornwall’s fishing heritage plays a huge part in the county’s tourism. It’s a foodie’s paradise; known for its world-class seafood. “Everyone who comes to Cornwall expects to see fresh local fish on the menus and specials boards!”
And a huge part of this appeal is the story behind the seafood. Visitors can walk around small cobbled streets, breathe in the atmosphere, hear the seagulls and smell the sea air. “People can see the whole picture. They can see the boats and understand where everything is fished from. I think traceability is a big part of it. When we sell fish at local pubs, they’ll write ‘Cadgwith’ along with the name of the boat, so people can see where it’s from. You’re not going to catch rubbish fish if your name’s on it – that’s for sure!”
The idea that customers – both locals and visitors – can give feedback to the fisherman who actually caught the fish is a beautiful idea. You’d never get that with fish from the supermarket! “It’s also great to hear what their favourites are!” says Brett.
A lot of fishermen choose to go one step further and collaborate more with the chefs. As much as it’s about understanding which seafood is popular on the menu, it’s about thinking which seafood is in season, and helping chefs to experiment and try new species.
Eating what’s in season is one of the most simple and effective ways you can ensure you consume sustainably.
In modern times, maintaining a healthy and thriving ocean is critical for fishers all around the world. Although we now have the ability to catch mass amounts of seafood, that certainly doesn’t mean that we should; it’s about consuming responsibly to ensure there’s a future in fishing – both for the sea, and for those who depend on it.
“Sustainability is very important. I’ve invested in a new boat off the back of sustainability, which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t think I could fish with it for the rest of my career”.
As the seasons change throughout the entire year, there’s a real difference in fishing days at sea. For example, during winter, fishing is more limited. “It can be flat and calm at sea, but there can be a ‘ground sea’ which is perfect for surfers who love big waves on the beach, but it means we can’t get out to sea from the cove. I’m only on an 18 feet boat, so can be very hampered by weather.”
As you’d expect, fishing’s a lot easier in the summer, when the weather is more settled. You get longer days, which makes the early morning wake up calls much easier too!
The diversity of species in Cornwall is another draw that sets the county apart. “It depends on the time of year but it’s such a mixed catch. Tasty spider crabs, crawfish, lobsters, monkfish, turbot, ray – even pollack at the right time – all in a day’s hauling!”
However sometimes the mass variety of seafood can be a hindrance when there’s plenty of seafood, but not enough of one species. “It’s hardly worth landing just a couple of fish and not really worth the drive to Newlyn!” So Brett explains that he checks in with pubs and restaurants to see if they will take them. No middle man, no unnecessary road miles. Just fresh seafood, straight from your local fisherman.
As for Brett, the variety and mixture of seafood is the key to his favourite recipe – bouillabaisse.
“I like my fish and my shellfish. If I can sell stuff I’ll sell it, but if there’s some damage I’ll eat that. Anything that’s not good for selling on – me and my old man – that’s our bonus feed!”
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