One of the priorities of The Fishing Daily is to be in touch with everyday people working in the industry. 

All too often we hear the rhetoric from political parties or from one organisation and another but the fishing industry’s voice is more than that. 

The fishing industry is everybody from the ground-up. From the deckhand to the boat owners, from the fish handler to the auctioneer and from the net-makers to the engineers. Everybody has a stake in the industry. 

These days there is a constant battle between pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit, but what about the lives of the people in the fishing communities around the coasts of Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales? 

Ashley Mullenger fishes on board the ‘Fairlass’ from Wells Next the Sea, Norfolk in the UK. 

We asked her to tell us why Brexit means to her and she volunteered to tell us about herself, how she got into fishing and what Brexit means to her and others in her area. 

“Last week I was approached by the Fishing Daily News via my Instagram profile- The.Female.Fisherman, and was asked to write an article introducing myself and some of my thoughts on Brexit… So here goes….  

“Until very recently I have worked aboard an under 10 metre wooden potting boat on the North Norfolk coast called ‘Never Can Tell A’, however this year my skipper decided to buy another boat, wooden again but this time over 10 metres called ‘Fairlass’, which we steamed all the way back to Norfolk from the Outer Hebrides… all 572 nm.  

“We have now retired ‘Never Can Tell A’ and are now focusing on getting the ‘Fairlass’ ready for her career in ‘whelking’ in Norfolk. 

“So, a Female Whelk Fisherman?  

“Well how did that happen?  

“Quite often I will find myself staring down at a box full of stinking bait face splattered with mud, rain streaming down my face, nose running, eyes stinging at some god awful time of the night whilst trying to keep balance as the boat rolls side to side in the weather wondering the same thing, but I would not change the decision I made to ditch the clean and warm office life for a second.  

“I have loved fishing from childhood and in 2009 I decided to book myself on a charter angling trip, I fell in love with being at Sea, it’s as simple as that. 

“Since that first trip Nigel, the skipper of ‘Sunbeam III’, could not get rid of me, eventually he asked me to come and work with him so I spent my summers gutting Mackerel and Cod and wrestling the odd small shark whilst maintaining an office job too.  

“In 2013 Nigel made the decision to sell ‘Sunbeam III’ and start fishing commercially where he worked and skippered on a couple of boats from Wells before buying his own boat ‘Never Can Tell-A’ in 2016.  

“Despite wanting desperately to have a career at sea, I was always put off by the level of physical work involved, the aspect of danger and the fact that fishing boats don’t generally cater for the needs of a female, and the luxury of a toilet is low down on the list when it comes to maximising useable deck space.  

“However, in 2018 Nigel asked me to come back and work for him, so I got over myself and decided “Yes” I was going to give it a try. Since I shut the door of that office I have never looked back. 

“To change my career choice so drastically at that point in my life came as quite a shock to a lot of my friends and family as I am not from a fishing or maritime background, however they knew how passionately I felt about it and supported me throughout.  

“As many readers will understand this isn’t the kind of job you do between dedicated set hours, it’s a lifestyle choice, our harbour is tidal so our start and finish times change daily.

“Then lets also consider the fact that the weather plays a dramatic role on if you will actually be going to sea.

“I knew full well the unpredictability of the job before I got involved however I didn’t realise making and actually keeping an appointment to have your hair done would be so difficult!!  

“It appears that I have joined the industry at a time when change is on the forefront of everybody’s agenda with Brexit looming (apparently) and whilst I try to stay current with what’s happening and how it may impact the industry in which I work it is hard to know how or even if this will benefit the UK’s fishing fleet. I write this two-days prior to the general election where it feels like the fate of the fishing fleet hangs in the balance between a hard Boris Brexit and a soft if not non-existent Corbyn Brexit. 

“On speaking to some of my fellow fisherman who have been in the industry a long time they feel let down and betrayed by the organisations that govern our fish, one even mentioned that in 1975 at a meeting a government minister stated that fishing rights have been traded for farming gains as most MP’s are land owners and from farming families.  

“One of my biggest concerns is that regardless of how we leave the EU our territorial waters may still be open for access to non-UK registered fishermen. The fisheries administrators of the UK have allowed the UK’s fish quota to fall into private hands for financial gain, I believe that the right to our own national resource should be the right of every UK fisherman and not at the discretion of a “for-profit” company.  

“Given the decisions made in the past by our own governing agencies I am nervous about the future and access to our waters and subsequently our fish stocks.  

“It seems hardest for the under 10 metre fleet who are given very little quota, so many turn their attention to non-quota species in order to make their living, however more regulation is being implemented, whelk pot limitations and paid for permits have been introduced along with increased MPA’s that appear to be growing year on year due to industry scientists, who feel distant, untouchable and unable to be challenged.  

“I get the impression that inshore waters are being privatised by the IFCA’s. It’s no wonder the fishing fleet has declined. In 2018, the UK fishing industry lost 112 vessels from its fleet from the previous year. 

“Where I fish from a lot of Brown Crab is landed and processed locally and exported to Europe, a no-deal Brexit would have an impact on our fishermen as this could limit the amount of crab they could land. I would like to see more GREAT British seafood being consumed locally and the governing agencies promoting the sustainability of smaller day boats negating the need to export and import as much as we do.  

“I feel that we were sold a dream of regaining control of our waters and leaving the CFP in the 2016 Referendum. I am sceptical and cannot see this happening, and the UK fishing fleet will once more be betrayed by its own government.” 

Brexit from the Deck

by editor time to read: 9 min