Heartbreaking Video Of Some Of England’s Last Small Fishermen

This new short film takes a look at the men who go out on the sea every day to catch fish in a sustainable way. Their livelihood–and the fish–are being threatened by large commercial fleets and, confusingly, fishing quotas designed to help preserve marine life.

This excellent video is part of a campaign led by Greenpeace U.K. to draw attention to what it sees as unfairness in European Union fishing quotas–the limits set for each state on how much fish they can pull from the sea. Greenpeace says the current system–now being renegotiated–favors “the most influential parts of the European fishing industry, often those operating with the highest environmental impact and least benefit to society.”


Groups like Greenpeace want to see a new policy that takes greater account of the environment and the importance of fishing to many coastal communities. “What happens in Europe is that the quota is based on historic catches and the lobbying power capacity of the companies, rather than criteria of best value to society,” says Aniol Esteban, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation, a U.K. think tank.

NEF research has shown that when you take into account factors such as employment, fish discards, and greenhouse gas emissions, smaller boats deliver “more value … for society.” Between 2006 and 2008, the report found that large trawlers delivered negative value in the order of thousands of dollars per ton of cod landed, but that fish landed with traditional gillnets delivered hundreds of dollars of positive value. Esteban notes that trawling fleets get 97% of EU fishing subsidies, compared to just 3% for gillnets.

The EU is becoming progressively less self-sufficient in fish, separate NEF research finds. In some parts of the EU, “dependency day”–when sufficiency ends–falls as early as July. As a result, the EU is effectively “exporting over-fishing overseas,” Esteban says. “In many developing countries, the only protein they have is from fish. Because the EU has been depleting its own stocks, it’s sending the fleet further and further away, and taking away food from people who need it more than us.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.