May 12th saw the first ever National Fishing Remembrance Day to remember fishermen lost at sea. It’s a good idea and long overdue. A great deal has changed in the fishing industry to make it safer but commercial fishing remains the most dangerous peacetime occupation. The stark reality is that if fishermen don’t go to sea they don’t get paid and their families don’t get fed. On Sunday, across our country, fishing communities came together to hold services and in North Shields wreaths were laid at the Fiddler’s Green statue. It was as ever moving to see the families of those lost, whose own lives were changed forever.
Earlier that week I had a meeting with the NFFO who represent many fishermen to discuss some of the issues facing the next government whoever forms it. Issues around workforce, at a time when the school leaving age has been raised – a good thing – but challenging for an industry which traditionally recruited young people often from within fishing families. Also, the competition between the green energy sector and fishermen for space as offshore windfarms grow. And then there’s Brexit which, despite much debate and many promises, has not changed that much for some fishermen except the shellfish industry – North Shields is the biggest prawn port in England -which has seen bureaucracy and costs massively increase in a sector which relies on exporting.
Fishing is part of our local heritage and folklore but at the end of the day it is an industry. Fishermen help feed the nation, but that food comes with a human cost.
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