The sun is out, the sea is calm and skipper Paul Stone smiles as he and his crew land a net full of squid in ‘Fishing for the Long Haul?’ the latest short film in the Boat Stories series.
The film was shot back in the summer before a ban on fishing for ray off the UK Coast effectively closed the Bristol Channel to North Devon trawlers, putting many fishermen out of work. We don’t hear many people shouting about it, nor many suggesting that fishermen know how to fish and conserve local stocks to maintain their livelihoods, but this film does.
‘Fishing for the Long Haul?’ sails with Stone and his crew, Tom Leather and Logan Suddick, out of Ilfracombe to trawl for squid in the Bristol Channel. The film opens a window on life at sea; we find out what it is that keeps these men out there, missing their families and risking their lives and what their Plan B might be if they can’t fish any more.
Boat Stories producer Jo Stewart-Smith talks about working with the North Devon fishermen:
“Despite the ups and downs of the fishing year, Paul was always funny; quick to follow bad news for their livelihoods with a joke or a quip. We tried to keep some of the humour and character in our short story – difficult when you’re taking more than twenty four hours on a boat down to five minutes!”
Before the current fishing ban, Paul talked about how the North Devon Ray Box helps with conserving local fish stocks. The Ray Box is a voluntary ‘no take zone’ set up by members of the local fishing industry to protect their livelihoods. Situated six miles north of Lundy the box is an area closed to fishing for a few months of the year to let the ray rest and breed.
Paul says: “It’s part of the overall plan … it’s one of several things we’ve done to make a sustainable fishery in the area. At the end of the day if you want a future in the job you’ve got to look after it.”
Stephen Pitcher Chair of Northern Devon FLAG (major funders of the film making) commented on the value of the Boat Stories series:
“These films show us things many of us were barely aware of, before we became involved in supporting the fisheries and fishing communities of North Devon. We often, in the work of the Fisheries Local Action Group, hold community events and can talk ourselves blue in the face on the subject, but the films show in a few minutes what can take hours to describe. They show the power of the moving image to convey the reality, the hard graft, the challenging environment, the skills, commitment and, yes, passion of fishermen for their trade. They enable us to inform people of the lives of the fishers and their environment and the consequences of decisions taken by or affecting them.”
Jo Stewart Smith is grateful to those in the North Devon fishing industry who spoke to her during the research for this film. “Despite being frantically busy they were all extremely welcoming and helpful. I particularly want to thank Paul and the crew for allowing Boat Stories on board to share their busy lives and for looking after our cameraman Mark Brindle so well.”
You can watch the film on the Boat Stories website www.boatstories.co.uk and read Jo’s film making blog and articles on the Ray Box and ray fishing ban.