Opinion: research boat helps us understand area’s seas

Come and say hello at our stall at the Great Bridlington Seafood Festival.

Come and say hello at our stall at the Great Bridlington Seafood Festival.

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A surprisingly short time ago, fishermen were the nearest thing to a permanent presence onYorkshire’s seas.

Various ships passed through, certainly, but it was fishermen who were there, day in, day out, whenever the weather permitted.

Mike Cohen, chief executive of the Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group.

Mike Cohen, chief executive of the Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group.

Similarly when it came to things affecting fish stocks, fishermen largely just had to worry about what they were taking.

It’s all very different today. Today, gas rigs and wind turbines are a permanent part of Yorkshire’s marine landscape. Hundreds of miles of trenches have been ploughed through our sea bed, to contain cables and pipelines.

Plastic waste gets into the water in a hundred different ways and could stay there for hundreds of years. All manner of chemicals run off from the land with rainwater or are dumped directly in the sea.

What this all amounts to, is change. Change in an ecosystem that fishermen have been part of for a very long time and upon which their livelihoods depend completely.

When it comes marine conservation, fishermen have more to lose than most. It’s one thing to like the sea; to admire its power and its tranquillity; to love the richness of the life it contains. It’s quite another thing to feel all that and rely on it to pay your bills and feed your family.

So what is the effect of all of that change on the health of our seas and future of our fishery? Put bluntly: we don’t know. We are trying to find out, though.

The fishermen of East Yorkshire recognised that they needed answers and that no-one else was going to provide them.

The Holderness Fishing Industry Group started by working with Universities and then became the first fishermen’s association in the UK to employ its own scientists (three of them) and to operate a dedicated research boat.

Our ongoing research is building a better understanding of the marine environment and the things that humans are doing to affect it. Some of the work we are doing is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

This is ground breaking stuff in one way, but in another it is not so very new. Fishing has always been about understanding the environment. As that environment has become more complicated, the ways in which we try to understand it have just had to become more complex too.

If you want to know more about what we do and the natural world beneath the waves, come and say hello to our team at the Seaside Science stall, at the Great Bridlington Seafood Festival held on 9 and 10 July.