08 January 2020 06:33
A new documentary has provided an insight into the struggles faced by Cornish fishermen. Viewers tuned into BBC Two this evening to watch Cornwall: This Fishing Life. The first episode was focused on Mevagissey - one of the few remaining working fishing villages in the county. The rest of the six-part series will follow the recruitment struggle currently facing one of the Cornwall's oldest occupations, with local housing pricing young men out, and a steady income – not something associated with fishing - needed to get a mortgage. Mevagissey, the tourist hotspot near St Austell, has seen a boom in the number of houses being purchased as holiday homes over recent years in what one local councillor described as an "onslaught of second-home owners".
In tonight's episode, some of which was filmed in 2018 during devastating storms nicknamed the Beast from the East, viewers were introduced to Jack West, 26, whose family had spent thousands on refitting a boat. Speaking of house prices in the village, Jack admitted: "Before you know it we will be driven out. Chris Blamey, the son of a popular local fisherman, added: "I don't have a problem with people moving here and spending their time here but I have a problem with people buying a house here and not living in it - that is an issue. David Warwick is singlehandedly the skipper of a boat that should be operated by two men. He revealed that high house prices combined with a low average wage in the village have created a recruitment struggle in the local fishing industry.
David added: "It is hard to get crew but youngsters can't afford to stay in the village – a lot of them move away – so yes, it is impacting the crew." Later on, the episode touched upon a vote given to residents of Mevagissey which looked to ban second homes. Residents involved in creating the Mevagissey Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) were fighting for a change to block second home buyers from purchasing properties, in an effort to "restore the balance to the playing field for local people". It followed a rule brought in at St Ives in 2016, which was supported by more than 80% of voters, to ban new-builds being sold as second homes. Watching the episode, one viewer wrote on Twitter: "#ThisFishingLife on BBC 2 right now - doing a good job of highlighting the disparity between house prices and local wages. That and the conflict between vital tourism cash and the survival of local communities. 40 minutes in and I've yet to see a life jacket, Jack West's passage plan is "let's sail over the sand bar and see what happens" #thisfishinglife." A third said: "Watching #ThisFishingLife #Cornwall on BBC2 right now... My village is exactly the same in regards of being ruined by second home owners and holiday houses... #Mevagissey #Cornwall #Kernow." A following viewer said: "#Thisfishinglife so much of the problems facing Mevagissey echo what is happening here. Can a balance between tourism, second homes, and local working communities be struck?" Another commented: "Holiday lets/second homes are a genuine problem. A later fan said: "Loving Cornwall #ThisFishingLife - nice dig at Padstow - that place has changed so much over recent years. Another wrote: "Oh, Mevagissey and Padstow have got beef over the emmet houses... A further viewer said: "East Cornwall fisherman dissing the north coast #thisfishinglife." A synopsis for the hour-long show stated: "Whilst other fishing communities are feeling the pinch, Mevagissey on Cornwall's south coast bucks the trend, with 74 working boats in the harbour. Protected from the prevailing winds, with fish stocks that are beginning to return, and with boats being handed down from father to son, Meva is blessed. "Jack West fished with his dad growing up, and the family have decided the time is right to invest in Jack. "The Galwady Mor is owned by one of Mevagissey's most successful fishing families, the Blameys. 27-year-old Chris is the fourth generation to go to sea. This year he takes over the responsibility of skippering the Galwady from his father Peter. The passing down of a lifetime's knowledge is priceless, but Chris knows he will face different challenges to his dad. "Mevagissey is a village built on fish - pilchards in particular. With local housing pricing young men out, and a steady income – not something associated with fishing - needed to get a mortgage, there aren't the young men lining up on the quay any more. Cornwall: This Fishing Life returns next Tuesday at 8pm. Cornwall: This Fishing Life, BBC2, review: These sea-dogs are always one bad season away from bankruptcy The first episode of this excellent new series showed that local fish stocks are the least of this community's concerns Skipper Chris Blamey lands a catch of sardines in Cornwall: This Fishing Life (Photo: Folk Films) Cornwall: This Fishing Life, BBC2 8pm ★★★★ New six-parter Cornwall: This Fishing Life brings us into the lives of the fishing families of the village of Mevagissey. Unlike other ports, Mevagissey is enjoying a comparative boom but that doesn't mean that fishing the Cornish coastal waters is a licence to print money. Jack West, having sunk thousands of pounds of family money into his new boat, the Ann Louise, was struggling to find enough fish to break even and was left lamenting a season of disappointing catches, with a black cloud of debt looming over him. Dave Warwick, skipper of the Valhalla, couldn't even find enough crew for his boat. Still, one local skipper successfully harnessing the power of technology was Chris Blamey, the fourth-generation scion of a dynasty of sea-dogs. Andrew Stevens catches spider crabs in Cornwall: This Fishing Life (Photo: Folk Films) Despite his first-class university degree, Chris hasn't been lured away to the aerospace industry or hedge-fund management but has committed himself to skippering the family boat, the Galwad Y Mor. A bit of a lateral thinker, Chris experiments with ploys like fishing over old shipwrecks (it's called "wreck netting") and here, he threw the TV crew off his boat so they couldn't reveal his secrets. Although local fish stocks are rising, the former boom years are never going to return. A new documentary is airing on TV all about the fishing industry in Cornwall. 'Cornwall: This Fishing Life' is a six-part series on the BBC which starts on Tuesday 7th January. The series synopsis reads: "The British fishing industry has been in decline for decades. The first episode will focus on Mevagissey, which currently has 74 working boats in the harbour. The synopsis reads: "Whilst other fishing communities are feeling the pinch, Mevagissey on Cornwall's south coast bucks the trend, with 74 working boats in the harbour. "Protected from the prevailing winds, with fish stocks that are beginning to return, and with boats being handed down from father to son. "Fishing is in the blood here - for more than 250 years the men of Meva have followed their fathers to sea, eager to honour the family traditions. "Jack West Jack fished with his Dad growing up, and the family have decided the time is right to invest in Jack. "The Galwady Mor is owned by one of Mevagissey's most successful fishing families, The Blameys. 27 year old Chris is the 4th generation to go to sea. This year he will take over the responsibility of skippering the Galwady from his father, Peter. The passing down of a lifetime's knowledge is priceless, but Chris knows he'll face different challenges to his dad. Whilst fish stocks are returning to Meva, there's not the abundance there once was. "Mevagissey is a village built on fish. The village is dominated by second homes and holiday lets, and the place is all but empty in winter. With local housing pricing young men out, and a steady income - not something associated with fishing - needed to get a mortgage, there aren't the young men lining up on the quay any more. "Dave Warwick on the Valhalla is one of the skippers looking for crew, and has to take the risk of skippering his boat solo until he can find some. He's limited to working the well-fished inshore waters until he can find men made of the right stuff. Malcolm grew up when fish stocks were plentiful and he got his fill - and made a lot of money. But with the toll a lifetime away at sea took on his family, he's not sure he made the right decisions, and wonders whether the next generation of skippers will learn from his mistakes." Cornwall: This Fishing Life starts at 8pm on Tuesday 7th January on BBC2.