A Great Catch: Life of Fishermen at Sea

·4-min read

‘It’s about you, and the fish, and the elements. It’s magical,’ says artist Henrietta Graham on life at sea after spending ten days with fishers in Newlyn, Cornwall. ‘It’s a phenomenal career – I would love people to know how rewarding it can be.’

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Creating panels that capture the lives of fishermen both at sea and onshore, Henrietta Graham hopes her paintings will raise awareness of the fishing industry and ‘encourage young people into it.’

It is true that for most of history, working at sea was far from easy. Long days in cramped conditions, with no means of communicating with friends and family at home, the fishing industry was reserved for the hardiest of workers. But in recent years, the industry has begun to change dramatically, ensuring it proves attractive for generations to come.

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Offering opportunities to work in natural surroundings and build life-long friendships, the fishing industry today offers a varied career, with ample opportunities for progression and development.

As Henrietta Graham’s paintings illustrate, the camaraderie aboard fishing vessels is unmissable and a central element of life at sea. Indeed, fishers in different corners of the globe reflect this, with one fisherman working for Mures Group in Australia explaining, ‘In such close quarters you need a big heart and a sense of humour.’ Though, he continues, ‘There’s a constant soundtrack of banter… as well as genuine affection’ on board.

Crew members working at Norebo, Russia’s leading fishing company, share a similar story, with one fisherman reflecting, ‘The crew is like one family.’ He continues, that life on board is best characterised by a feeling of ‘mutual supportiveness and team spirit’, where more experienced fishers are readily available to lend a hand and offer guidance.

It’s not just the community spirit that attracts people to the fishing industry today. Many are also drawn by the improved working conditions following advancements in vessel design. For example, Endeavour V, a trawler built by Macduff Shipyards in Scotland, has introduced several improvements such as a spacious wheelhouse, a modern messdeck and a well-equipped galley, as well as several safety features such as a gas-free refrigeration system and a state-of-the-art recovery sling.

Embracing new technologies, Norebo’s latest fleet of vessels are also designed entirely with comfort and safety in mind. For example, Norebo’s Captain Korotich trawler has been designed to have a capsule-shaped hull with an Enduro Bow type of bow line to create more spacious working conditions on board.

Norebo also fits its vessels with saunas and gyms to facilitate healthy living, while offering Wi-Fi on its North Atlantic routes and film screenings across all its vessels. With its staff typically working 6-hour shifts, followed by between 6-w members are afforded ample time to recharge while enjoying the facilities and the four nutritious meals provided daily.

It is clear that the fishing industry has evolved significantly in recent years, paying increased importance to employee satisfaction and comfort when at sea. Indeed, companies such as Norebo are set to provide state-of-the-art facilities on its vessels, placing high life at sea standards at the forefront of its priorities.

Yet even as the fishing industry embraces new technologies and rolls out vessels with new and improved design features, the sector continues to be steeped in history and tradition. Close-knit and multi-generational bonds are the lifeblood of the fishing industry. For this reason, the words of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a 20th C French explorer, still ring true today: ‘The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.’

As the industry grows and improves, fishers continue to return to sea year on year. Drawn by the rewarding nature of the work, fishers take great pride in working in tandem with nature, preserving the oceans for years to come.

As the next generation looks to join the fishing industry, it appears likely they will be just as enthralled by its charms, community spirit, and in recent years, significantly improved working conditions.

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