“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Damian Bird
Seabird is a documentary look at the Fishermen of Westbay who fish the country's largest marine protected area, Lyme Bay, which covers more than 60 square miles, stretching from Abbotsbury to Lyme Regis. The area has been fully closed to highly destructive scallop dredgers and bottom trawlers since 2008.But, despite fish stocks improving and a move towards sustainable fishing, mounting bureaucracy, an aging popultion of fishermen and crippling overheads mean that this is an ancient way of life under threat.
Jack WoolmingtonI started fishing in 1960. Prior to that, when I was a kid, we used to catch mackerel off the beach with nets, so I’ve always been involved with it. My dad had fishing boats in the harbour before I did. I grew up with it. Originally I went out catching eels in my early 20s. Fresh water eels. And I managed to save enough money, over a four year period, to buy my first boat. I went straight in with a 30 foot boat because I knew what you needed in West Bay.
Pete ‘the Worm’ NewtonI was an angler when I was a kid. I always liked the sea and I started fishing, I suppose, because I didn’t want to go to work! I started fishing for a living when I was about 18, in 1973. That was in Essex. I’d always come down here to West Bay on holiday. I had friends down here and it was just a natural progression to move here. I mean Essex was alright and the eel fishing was good, but basically you’re fishing in rivers and estuaries and it was nicer down here.
Jack Woolmington and Pete Newton, fishing for Cuttlefish.
David Sales.My cousin Bill led me into fishing when I was 17. His mother, who was in a metal hospital, had money and we talked about having a boat, because we’d always been on the sea as nippers. I was working on a farm at the time and I thought, if I’m going to go fishing I’ve got to get some experience. So I went to Swanage and met up with this fisherman, Maurice Lane, who was quite a character and he said, “Yes you can come over for the summer,” which I did.
David Sales fishes commercially for Lobster and Crab in his one man boat. He has just turned 80 years old.
David Sales, is by his own admission, wedded to the sea. He never intends to retire.
Mark Cornwell.I started working with my dad after school and at weekends when I was 14, potting and netting. I left school and went dive chartering and then to college to learn mechanics. But I wanted to come back here and when I could afford it, I bought my own boat and went back to fishing for a hassle free life. I like the early mornings. It’s a peaceful time.
Mark Cornwell and his crew go out in all weathers.
Because they use the trawling method of fishing they are prevented from catching fish inside the marine protected area.
Donald Johnson.I’ve always fished as a hobby but I went commercial about 25 years ago when I developed a bad back. I just built my boat, and went fishing. I originally had the boat built for netting, but I mostly have to go potting now because we’re not allowed to catch the fish anymore because of quotas.
Donald mostly catches Sole, Ray and Plaice when he goes netting.
Ted Hook.I was 14, I reckon, when I started commercial fishing. I’m 29 now. I was always into fishing, with rods, when I was a kid and then when I was 13, 14, I started going out on the fishing boats, just chopping bait and stuff. At 16, I bought my first boat, from money I earned working on the boats and winkle picking.
There are not many rules and regulations for the kind of fishing I do, which is whelks, crabs and lobsters and it’s a good close knit fishing community here.
Reflections in the deck.
Jamie Smith.I’ve been fishing for 30 years in total, but turned it into a career 25 years ago. My current boat’s been with me for nearly 20 years. It’ll see me out. I’m not buying another one.
The view from Jamie’s boat.
You grow to like your boat. No boat is perfect, but you grow to know it. You become quite attached to a boat. I know fishermen who’ve retired and it’s been the worst day of their lives when they’ve given up a boat that they’ve worked with for a long period of time.
Aubrey Banfield.You can’t beat being out here. You’ve got to be a sea lover obviously, but at the end of the day, everything’s a surprise. I can have exceptional days or I can get nothing. But every day is a new day. It’s not just the same old shit.
Cuttlefish, just out of the sea.
The icing on the cake, in terms of job satisfaction, is a good catch and it’s also important for me to do what I want to do. I’ve spent the last 24 years, pretty much doing what I want, but not at the pace I want to do it at, because of the constraints of other people. With fishing, if I want to go out, I go. If I don’t want to go out, I don’t have to.
John Warswick.I learnt to dive when I moved down here. I did a bit of diving with one of the other guys just for fun and thought, yep, I can find a few scallops. I’ll give this a go. It’s great when your living is your hobby and your hobby is your living! Can’t be bad can it?