As COVID-19 broke out, shellfisherman Johnny Murt feared that his fishing season was over before it had even started. However, by pairing up with local restaurant Prawn on the Lawn, and with some help from the Rapid Response Grants Programme (RRGP), he was able to set up Fish Buoys, a service selling locally caught fish and shellfish to the people of Padstow. We caught up with him to find out more.
Where did the idea for Fish Buoys come from?
All of the local restaurants, which take a substantial proportion of my catch were closed overnight, along with the Spanish export market which took the rest. The only way to continue fishing was to develop new markets and fast, no easy feat during a pandemic where most food outlets in the country would be closed. Having contacted a few farm shops to see if I could sell my shelfish in their carparks, I was pleasantly surprised as to how receptive they were and how much help and encouragement they were giving me to make a success of it. Padstow Farm Shop, Strawberry Fields in Lifton and Constantine Bay Stores started to advertise my shellfish and within no time I had markets that I never knew existed.
How did the collaboration with Prawn on the Lawn come about?
One thing that became clear was that my newly developed customers wanted fish as much as shellfish. Rick Toogood of Prawn on the Lawn started cooking up shellfish, along with buying fish from several Padstow fishing vessels, offering a range of whole fish or fillets. The range of what we were delivering to the general public continued to increase with Ricks understanding of fishmongering and sales and The Arc (Hawksfeld) was added as a new location.
How has the funding from the RRGP helped develop the project?
We applied for a Rapid Response Grant to launch a collaboration between Murt’s Shellfish and Prawn on the Lawn to help develop a unit to process our shellfish and fillet fish from the local boats. We also applied for a Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme grant to kit the unit out with the equipment needed to do the processing (boiler, fridge, freezer, refrigerated delivery van etc.). Combined, these grants will allow us to support more local boats in Padstow and get their fantastic fresh seafood out to more people, through developing the markets we have recently established.
The funding from the RRGP will allow us to develop our unit into a mini processing facility to support more inshore vessels and get their fantastic seafood to the consumer. This will allow us to employ staff to help with processing shellfish products and, in the future, a fish filleter as demand grows.
How has establishing Fish Buoys helped you and the local fishery in the longer term?
Through processing and adding value to localfishery products our businesses, along with other local inshore vessels, will be future proofed against the threat of another disaster (pandemic, political strife, etc.) which may cause their traditional markets to close.
You can find Fish Buoys at:
The ARC at Hawksfield. Saturday from 10am while stocks last.
Strawberry Fields Farm Shop, Lifton. Saturday from 2:30pm while stocks last.