The Coronavirus represented huge challenges for the UK’s fishermen, however with some financial support from the Fishmongers’ Company Fisheries Charitable Trust and Seafarers UK, Cornish fishermen Jason and Nicky Pascoe have been able to realise a long term goal, and begin to sell their catch direct to the public. Here Jason talks about how they got up and running and their plans for the future.
As the Coronavirus pandemic started to spread across the UK, the fishing industry was one of the first sectors to be hard hit with many of the restraurants closing their doors overnight and the export markets badly affected due to the lockdown. We own and operate a small family trawler on the River Fal in Cornwall, a county that while heavily reliant on the tourist trade still has a greatly reduced, but very successful fishing fleet that catches a multitude of different white fish, prime fish and shellfish species both for home consumption and the export markets.
Running a small under 10m trawler the Fair Morn FH29 we were featured struggling in the BBC’s Cornwall: This Fishing Life, shortly after commissioning our new boat as a brother and sister team. We catch a good variety of fish including monkfish, lemon sole, Dover sole, plaice, squid, John Dory, gurnard, totalling 30 different types of fish and shellfish. Prior to COVID-19, our main markets were Wild Harbour Fish in Hayle, who took our higher value prime fish, and either Newlyn fish market or Falfish in Falmouth. However with the announcement of lockdown, demand for fish almost collapsed overnight and fish prices hit the floor, making our boat unviable with the running costs and fuel costs and creating a very worrying situation for us.
Reading the news and other media sources, trying to find out what we could do to reverse our situation and visiting the various sites which I normally trawl through to keep up with the latest news and developments in our industry, I stumbled on a post on Lawrence Hartwell’s Through the Gaps site, a daily blog which highlights and promotes the Cornish fishing industry as well as other fishing news from across the globe. Larry has spent many years working aboard and skippering various boats and has a wealth of knowledge and passion for our industry which is rarely seen today. On his site he was sharing a link regarding grant support to our industry, to promote the sale of UK fish and help with marketing our product to the public and fish retailers. This Rapid Response Grant Programme was being distributed by the Fishmongers’ Company and Seafarers UK, helping fishing communities through these difficult times and I immediately applied for it. Our application was approved within 2 weeks, which was great news for us and we were delighted!
Our aim has always been to catch and market our own seafood, but we were never really in a position to do so. This grant enabled us to purchase a used ice machine, packaging equipment and helped towards the cost of purchasing a fridge van to deliver our fish, as well as the hygiene qualifications needed for such a venture. We had received great support from our local community after appearing on TV and were inspired by skipper Peter Green and his wife Angie who also appeared in the same episode, selling their fish in St Mawes Cornwall, encouraging us to try the same. The Rapid Response Grant simply made it possible to do so and we are very grateful to Seafarers UK and the Fishmongers’ Company.
The most difficult part of selling your own fish is knowing whether all of your daily catch will be sold. To help with this I send out a group text to all of our customers, together with a picture of the different fish we have aboard and ask them if they would like any to message back and secure their order. The most popular fish such as the lemon sole, plaice, John Dory are usually the first to go but sometimes we are left with the lesser known fish such as the whiting. cuttlefish and pouting. To help promote these less well known fish we give our customers a free sample to try,this has proved very successful and I am continuously surprised that our customers are asking for these lesser known fish and we have even been asked for common dogfish and dragonette.
It is great that the British public seem to have a renewed passion for fish and are shopping locally with us. Our next aim is to set up a purification tank so we can sell our oysters and mussels on the van. We continue to sell to any buyers in the fish trade and I think this will help us in the winter, when there is more fish on the grounds. Customers are increasing by the week and as they are asking for some fish that we don’t catch many of, mackerel being one, we have now started to buy the odd box to sell from other boats and very much hope this will increase in time. Our aim is to see UK fish on everybody’s plate and it is great to know that we are moving in the right direction to achieve this goal.
To order from Jason & Nicky call 07498924347.