‘We are ecosystem scientists’

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Skipper Alan Addison says fishermen should be listened to more by scientists.

#CatchOfTheDay = one hashtag and just four short words, but with multiple meanings for thousands of fishermen worldwide. Be it a deck full of fish, a day of good weather during a stormy trip or even recovering lost fishing gear.

Every day spent at sea generates a different meaning for those four short words that only a fisherman can appreciate. To many ashore, #CatchOfTheDay has a singular meaning devoid of interest, other than the succulent fish with crispy batter they enjoy on #FishFriday!

I’m Alan, the 45 year old Deep Water Trawler Skipper of the 29 metre Venture II, BF326.

A 30-year veteran of working the stormy waters around the UK, especially the deep and ultra deep waters to the North-West of Scotland out to Rockall Bank, Faroe zone, West of Shetland basin and, before it became restricted by quotas, the Hatton Bank.

Venture operates from Kinlochbervie in the North-West of Scotland, home of the furthest North-West active daily fish auction in the UK. We operate on a trip on/trip off basis with a crew of eight men at sea for each trip; a trip normally lasts eight to 10 days.

Due to the healthy abundance across the board of all our target species, it is now the norm to have two, sometimes three landings during a trip. With a carrying capacity of 55 tonnes of gutted whole fish, Venture and her crew are constant suppliers of fresh, protein-rich seafood meals to UK and EU consumers.

Obviously, during 30 years in any occupation, any worker will have witnessed massive changes and fishing is no different. The Scottish and UK fleet is now a fraction of what it was in the glory days of the 1980s & 90s. The reality is, the fleet expansion encouraged by government during these times didn’t appreciate that there was a limit to what can be harvested sustainably from the waters surrounding the UK. To our cost, the stocks reminded us in brutal fashion, with multiple business failures due to lack of fishing opportunities and, basically, fish!

Thankfully today stocks are super healthy. For the past eight to 10 years the effects of a massive fleet reduction and various gear technical measures, along with closed areas, have once again allowed the stocks to flourish and become abundant.

In my opinion, fishermen should be listened to more by science and policy makers. We regularly take science staff from Marine Scotland away on observation trips on Venture, along with occasionally volunteering our services for survey trips on the research vessel Scotia (sacrificing our trip off from commercial fishing!).

So much has been done to reduce the environmental impact of trawling on the seabed in recent years, though fishermen are under constant attack by various groups, painting a picture of pirates plundering the fish stocks. Nothing could be further from the truth of a present day fisherman.