Starlight Rays

The trawler Starlight Rays, pictured here at Peterhead Harbour, features in Trawlermen.

Trawlermen began in 2006 and there are four series and one special episode in total. Based on documenting life in the commercial fishing industry in Scotland, each episode focuses on thee or four trawlers (there are over twenty vessels featured across the four series) and details the role of the commercial fishermen, the dangers they face and the working conditions they must endure. Much of the focus is on the skipper of the vessels and how their plans to maximise catches pan out, although there is often attention paid to new or inexperienced crew and how they cope with the harsh working conditions. The prices gained for the catch at the auctions once the trawlers have returned to port are a key part of the show. The issue of the insane EU quota system is addressed directly in Trawlermen, and we see footage of vessels having to throw perfectly good fish back into the sea because they have reached their quota. The issue of ‘blackfish’ is also addressed when the viewers are introduced to the McBride father and son team who were served a £400,000 confiscation order as well as fines as a punishment for catching and selling fish over their quota – the McBrides were eventually jailed for their actions following the filming of the show. The incredible amount of fish that trawlers can take from the sea is also mentioned, although this is seen as more of a source of pride in the ability of the crews, and the unsustainability of catching fish in such numbers is glossed over.

Peterhead Harbour

Many of the vessels in the show fish out of Peterhead Harbour.

Trawlermen is a fascinating programme and it is easy to get drawn in to the drama and danger that characterises the crews’ working days. It is good to see serious issues such as quotas being addressed directly, although this series is clearly based around presenting commercial fishermen in a positive light, and the issue of dwindling fish stocks in British waters is barely mentioned. Despite this Trawlermen is highly entertaining and recommended watching for anyone interested in sea fishing, and since it is real crews doing their real jobs on screen viewers can assume that they are getting a genuine view of what working in the commercial fishing industry is really like.

The various series of Trawlermen is available on DVD from Amazon here..

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