Cornwall: This Fishing Life – 17 October 2021 – BBC Two
Series 2 Episode 2 of 6 – Looe once boasted the second largest fishing fleet in Cornwall. For decades it held a reputation for landing some of the freshest and highest quality fish in the country. At one time the Looe fleet were landing 20 tons of fish each day straight from the boat into the town’s bustling fish market. There’s now just half a dozen full-time trawlers, and in 2019 its fish market closed.
A few hundred metres inland, the tidal river offers the fleet some protection, but also shapes the way fishing is done here. Looe trawlers can only put to sea around high tide, or risk running aground. Out at sea they are working the same grounds are much larger trawlers, too big for harbours like Looe, capable of working in all weathers for a week at a time. But the Looe boats have turned being small to their advantage. Landing the same day, they command top prices for the freshest catch.
Plymouth, just 22 miles from Looe, is one of the world’s largest deep water harbours. Since the 1980s, Looe skippers wanting bigger boats left their tidal home waters for Plymouth’s safe embrace. Looe’s loss became Plymouth’s gain, and the town’s fleet diminished.
One local family – The Toms – are fighting to resist the changes by resurrecting the last boat built in Looe and investing in the future, with three generations throwing themselves into the fray. But even with hundreds of years of fishing pedigree, the Toms are finding themselves on the outside of the modern fishing business, where catching the fish is only one of the challenges facing them. They’ve got a few months of borrowed quota and need to get the old boat fixed up to get to sea and start using it. The Toms’ journey to get the boat fishing takes them through the challenges of Britain’s broken quota system, a system where just five families own nearly a third of the country’s entire fish quota.
Aiding the Toms in the fight back is new kid on the quay, fish merchant Sam Chapman. He wants to build a business based on Looe’s best-known commodity – its day-boat fresh fish – but when the fleet left for Plymouth, they took the fish with them. Sam is gambling his whole business to try and change business as normal. He’s cutting out the middleman, buying everything the Toms can land, and is determined to forge a future for himself and fishing in Looe.
As the Toms plough ever more money into fixing the old boat, rumours swirl that the old fish market is set to reopen, and a most unlikely ally emerges. Can one family and one boat revive the hopes of Looe’s once proud fishing fleet?
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About Cornwall: This Fishing Life
Whilst other fishing communities are feeling the pinch, Mevagissey on Cornwall’s south coast bucks the trend, with 74 working boats in the harbour. Protected from the prevailing winds, with fish stocks that are beginning to return, and with boats being handed down from father to son. Meva is blessed. Fishing is in the blood here – for more than 250 years the men of Meva have followed their fathers to sea, eager to honour the family traditions. Now the next generation of ambitious young skippers are ready to make a go of it. Jack West fished with his dad growing up, and the family have decided the time is right to invest in Jack. Having spent thousands on the Anne Louise, the pressure is on to get out to sea and start earning some money. The Galwady Mor is owned by one of Mevagissey’s most successful fishing families, the Blameys. 27-year-old Chris is the 4th generation to go to sea.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.
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