Fishing for a Future? Challenges and Opportunities Facing UK Fishing Communities Revealed at ‘UK Fishing Forum’

January 12, 2018

On 9 January 70 representatives from the fishing industry including fishermen, fish producers, policy makers and funders, attended an event at Fishmongers’ Hall organised by Seafarers UK and hosted by The Fishmongers’ Company. They were there to discuss the interim findings from a major new piece of research compiled by Cornwall Rural Community Charity and Rose Regeneration.

The ‘Fishing for a Future’ research is based on an analysis of 41 fishing ports around the UK. It involved an extensive survey of fishermen’s own views on the key issues impacting their lives as well as a survey of 70 health service providers in fishing communities. Many areas of need were identified, including: a lack of funding for simple port infrastructure and equipment; low workforce recruitment and retention; poor health amongst fishermen, with most suffering from a disability or long-term health problem; many fishing families facing financial difficulties, and the knock-on effects of a limited access to quota for the stability of fishermen’s personal circumstances.

The ‘UK Fishing Forum 2018’ invited guests to quiz the report’s authors and other experts (see list below). Dave Cuthbert of the New Under 10m Fishermen’s Association, a panellist, said: ‘It isn’t fun to throw fish overboard and watch them drift away when you have a mortgage to pay. It exemplifies a broken system and highlights that small scale fishermen are hemmed in by regulation’. Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation felt that: ‘Fishing has been left out of the political system. Fishermen need coherent structures to give them a voice.’

The report also highlighted those areas of potential opportunity for pro-active work in tackling the need and challenges identified in the research, these being: the use of credit unions, money advice and pensions; training in numeracy, literacy and core skills; greater analysis and understanding of migrant workers; building upgrades and small harbour infrastructure; better health outreach; business development support; better workforce recruitment and retention, and the use of animateurs to help fishermen reach their full potential.

Barry Bryant, chair of the Forum and Director General of Seafarers UK, commented: ‘This work is timely in shining a light on a little understood community of resilient and resourceful fishermen who have often missed out on “one size fits all” social and economic interventions. The aim is that this research will provide an agenda for future action, and we hope that by fishermen, charities, support bodies and Government working together, we can make a significant and sustainable impact at this time of change for the UK fishing community that is such an important and financially viable part of our Island Nation.’


UK fishing sector facts highlighted in the report:

  • Fishing and fish processing employ 22,000 people within the UK total of 28.5 million jobs
  • The overall impact of the UK fishing sector is worth £1.14 billion
  • In 2015 around 12,000 people were directly employed in fishing (in 1987 the figure was approaching 25,000)
  • Over 20% of all those working directly as fishermen are non-EU workers
  • 12,000 fishing jobs support at least a further 4,000 jobs in the wider economy, as well as their own extended families
  • £552 million value of landings contributes that amount again in wider added value; making the overall impact of the UK fishing sector worth £1.14 billion.

Speakers and panellists at ‘Fishing Forum 2018’:

  • Ivan Annibal, Managing Director, Rose Regeneration
  • Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher, New Economics Foundation
  • Hazel Curtis, Chief Economist, Seafish
  • Dave Cuthbert, Co-Chairman, NUTFA (New Under 10m Fishermen’s Association)
  • David Dickins, Chief Executive, Fishermen’s Mission
  • Robert Greenwood, Safety Officer, National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations
  • Andrew Pascoe, Fisherman (over 10 metres)
  • Jerry Percy, Executive Director, LIFE (Low Impact Fishers of Europe) and Chairman, Coastal Producer Organisation
  • Rob Poole, Rural Economist, Cornwall Rural Community Charity
  • Simon Potten, Head of Safety, Training & Services, Seafish
  • Chris Ranford, Fisheries Communities Animateur, Cornwall Rural Community Charity
  • Dr Rachel Turner, Lecturer in Environmental Social Science, Exeter University
  • Lysanne Wilson, Health Development Officer, Seafarers Hospital Society.

The interim ‘Fishing for a Future’ report is available to download at: http://bit.ly/2DbfdYj. The final report, due to be published in late Spring, will be informed by both the Forum’s discussions and any additional feedback on the interim findings from the full spectrum of the fishing community.

Feedback and input on the interim research is invited, by email to fishingforum@seafarers.uk, phone 020 7932 5965, or write to Fishing Forum, Seafarers UK, 8 Hatherley Street, London, SW1P 2QT.