Photographer Joanne Coates is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography. These images are from her project ‘The Plight Of The Fisherman“. To see Joanne’s projects click on any image.
As a child we would set off for the coast early every Sunday. A family ritual. Grandad, Nanna, brother and I. It was our ritual seeing the sea every Sunday. It was on these trips to Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington and all those in-between places that I began to catch glimpses of the fishing industry. Rubber boots here, nets there. Catching snippets of seafarers conversations. The frayed jumpers, the big smiles, I can’t explain the connection but it was there from my first year of the sea family ritual.
Throughout my years growing up on the coast I would meet out of work fishermen, one friendly but mystery man that always bowed his head and smiled, ex trawler men that would have worked in the arctic. Their faces, their stories enthralled me.
The sea covers 70% of the world’s surface. The UK has jurisdiction over the 5th largest area of Ocean of any country in the world. The question is who really owns the sea, who does the power lie with to slice up the untamed ocean?
Orkney is home to Europe’s largest lobster hatchery. Releasing over 100,000 lobsters annually. Funding for the hatchery is currently in question, putting it’s future in jeopardy.
Matt Coleman and Beta Rodrigues work for Orkney Sustainable Fisheries. They measure landing sizes. Looking to ensure sustainability for a species. Other projects include a V-notching scheme for lobsters. These sustainable efforts are not often reported on when looking at the fishing industry. The fishermen work together with Matt and Beta to form results. Heriot Watt university works closely with OSF, alongside its course promoting interaction within the community.
Eddie crewman of the Keila, a trawler from Westray. Trawler life can be tough, harsh weather conditions, little sleep, monotonous routines and banality. The crew are often out for ten days or more.
The sea is a marker of global empire, with transport boats, huge cargo vessels, luxury ferries and fishing boats on various routes across the expanse. The laborer is not often represented within our postmodern world, these jobs are reminders of those roles that are not socially represented.
Having worked in the fishing industry for over fifty years, retirement can be tough. Fishermen are also businessmen. Having lost his pension this fisherman looks back onto a life lived on the seas. His life still revolves around being by the sea, with windows over looking the sea. It’s an addiction.
Cabin interior, the beds and living area of a creel boat in Whitehaven. Images of fishing ports across the UK during the 1940s tell an entirely different story. The docks were jammed with fishing boats, with tales across the land of the wealth that the fishing brought. Nowadays fishing boats are sparse, due mainly to the disappearance of cod, haddock and plaice. Which has changed the need for deep sea fishing to alternative methods and in shore fishing. These once thriving fishing communities are becoming an endangered species themselves.
Many fishermen across the UK have lost their jobs fishing but continue to work connected to the sea in some way. In 2015, 13 fishing vessels were lost, representing 0.23% of the fleet.
2016 has been a sad year within the fishing industry, in August the UK more fishermen have already lost their lives than in the whole of 2016.
Many still romanticize the traditional image of the fishing industry, men with beards in oilskins. The intense labor and long days, often for six days a week are not considered.
Jason Adam is crew on board James Clouston’s boat in Tingwall. He was one of the youngest fishermen I met and had a young family to support. The fight for fair and sustainable fishing has been a slow process, with little positive media coverage for the environmentally friendly measures to be put into place by fishermen. The job prospects for the younger generations of younger men looking to get into the industry are hard, unless they come from a fishing family they are unlikely to gain skipper status .
Fishing is a different way of life. It’s not only a job but in fact a way of living. To survive in the current market a skipper needs to undertake the role of businessman alongside his fishing duties.
Kyle Kent, Martin Foulis Boat, Alison Marie out of Kirkwall
Micheal Leslie, skippering the Keila.
Orkney Fisheries Association is a co-operative working for fishermen. The association work closely with researchers to maintain a sustainable fishing ground for years to come.
In June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. Brexit directly effects the fishing community with hopes that things will soon charge within the Common Fisheries Policy. There have been talks about changing the 12 mile radius currently set by EU regulations to a much wider Icelandic 200 mile radius with ownership of the waters surrounding the island. For the first time in 40 years, the UK will shortly have control of their fishing policy.