Fishing in Cornwall


The over-riding problem...
is dealing with the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP); every month DEFRA post out the latest information which constantly moves the goal posts; this creates fear and uncertainty with the imposition of rules that no-one seems to have come to grips with. Jay's father had been a fisherman of legendary status, who built traditional wooden clinker boats. One of his boats, Antoinette, had been abandoned on the beach because the fisherman who owned her couldn't make a living; Jay bought it, made her water-tight, fitted a new engine and she was ready for sea again....BUT because she had been laid up, no landings had been recorded, the boat was given a limited licence, with an annual quota not to exceed 300 kilo. After appeal, in which Jay had to prove his credentials as a full-time fisherman, he has an unlimited licence but he barely makes a subsistence living hand-lining mackerel and bass.

Fishing boats in harbour Putting the gear away Boats landing at market

The tide could be turning for Cornish fishermen. The detested EU rules blamed for bringing the SW fishing industry to its knees may be consigned to the dustbin. The CFP governs every aspect of a fisherman's working life, including forcing them to throw dead fish back into the sea if their quota is exceeded. Now the EU are admitting that their policies have been harmful; Brussels is so remote and centralised that the real concerns at local level are never heard, with annual quota setting, demanding year-on-year cutbacks. The discussions concerning devolution of power to member states is significant and the SW Fish Producers Organisation will be campaigning for the new CFP to be more locally responsive. Fishermen know better than desk-bound scientists where local stocks are sustainable.

Why do they do it? The easy answer is because they can't do anything else. But it's not that simple. I don't buy into the romantic fantasy that lingers around this brotherhood of individuals, but there is a difference which comes with the job description: being a fisherman is stating who you are, and not what you are. They have knowledge, not education, instilled down the generations from the unwritten encyclopaedia of maritime lore that wasn't taught but is intuitive. From a woman who feels seasick in a car wash, I shouldn't make assumptions, however, I do believe they are hunters in an ancient sense and take the consequences; like Jay's neighbour who steamed out to the Manacles one January morning - he and his boat were never seen again!

Bass with peppers anchovy, tomato on saffron potatoes

And what of my gift of that beautiful fish? I dedicated it to one of my food heroes, the vintage Keith Floyd, who recently staggered off to the vineyard in the sky, and for dinner we had my version of his bass with anchovy, tomatoes, red peppers and saffron potatoes!

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