The World’s Toughest Jobs: Trawler Fishing

The World’s Toughest Jobs was a BBC 3 series which originally aired in February 2015. The premise of the show is that young people who are unemployed, unmotivated or otherwise stuck in a rut with their lives are given the chance to work in a tough job in a harsh environment as a way or reenergising their career and increasing their confidence and motivation. One of the episodes gives three young people the chance to work on a factory trawler in icy Arctic waters.

The three young people featured in the programme are Jess from Hertfordshire (an unemployed mother of two with few qualifications who “struggles with authority”), Carl (a bar worker from London who has previously had problems with drugs and homelessness but has ambitions to become a millionaire) and Jaime (24-year-old from Wales whose love of fashion, clothes and fake tan has got him into £11,000 of debt and is currently unemployed after being made redundant from his mobile phone sales job).

Barents Sea

The fishing takes place in the Barents Sea.

The young people are gathered together and told that they will take a flight to Tromsø in Norway where they will work on the Hermes, a 55 metre, 1570 ton factory-freezer trawler which will catch 450,000 kilograms of coldwater whitefish in the Barents Sea. They are told that they will make £3000 each for their short trip, with the potential to be kept on and make £75,000 each for working on the Hermes for six months of the year.

Once on board the vessel the seasickness begins for a number of the young people, especially Jaime, but there is no delay in starting work, with all three being sent down into the processing room of the ship to gut and process the fish. The shift pattern means that they work six hours on and six hours off for the entire journey. While Carl takes the work seriously and works well, Jaime struggles with cutting the heads off the fish and Jess disobeys direct instructions from the crew and eventually decides that she cannot handle working in the ship and wants to go home. Eventually they find a place for her working in the ships kitchen, although she is still paid the same amount of money as the other two, leading to tensions, especially with Carl. We also see the young people working in other parts of the ship, such as the freezer storage room and Carl, as the most capable, is allowed to work on the trawl deck – the most dangerous and demanding part of the vessel.


Cold water whitefish, such as cod are the target species.

It is extremely interesting to see how the young people adapt to what is a dangerous and demanding job which is way out of their comfort zones. All of the young people do relatively well, with Carl even impressing enough to being kept on for additional fishing stints as an employee once the programme has finished and the cameras have gone, and Jaime gaining enough courage and confidence to eventually cut the head off a large cod. Even Jess manages to impress enough to take home a full pay packet.

The World’s Toughest Jobs: Trawler Fishing is an interesting programme, which examines the world of commercial fishing from the viewpoint of people who have no idea what this industry entails. While there is no discussion of conservation or other issues the fishing takes place in Norwegian waters which are still full of cod (as they are not part of the European Union and the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy). Overall this is a well-constructed and very informative programme which anyone with an interest in fishing will find interesting.

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