Ladies Fishing Enjoy A Coffee With The Countess Of Wessex

Today I met the Countess of  Wessex on her whistle stop tour of the North East. She came to meet and chat to the fishermen, ladies at the Seafood Training Centre in North Shields. Over coffee the Countess chatted to fishing folk, about the industry, even talked about her child hood when the fish monger would arrive at her mum’s to deliver fish. The Countess was interested in the fishing industry and how they are surviving during this current economic climate.  Everyone whom she met at STC commented that she was knowledgeable, charming and interested in the fishing industry.

The 2 ladies from the WI, had a beginners filleting demo for Haddock, when asked by the Countess would they do this at home or still buy from the local supermarket ready prepared, they opted for the later.

The fishing Industry is not dead but it has gone through a large change over the last few years. It is no longer quantity but quality that counts. The large super markets want to know what vessel caught their fish, when, where, what time and landing details. So care of the catch has become a very important part of training.

STC had noticed that the industry had a problem with recruitment of Fish Filleters as many of them had left the industry as a lot of processors had turned to mechanical filleting, but as fish became harder to come by and the mechanical filleter only gave about 65% of the fish it was felt it was time to go back to manual filleting where a good filleter could give you 90% of the fish meaning he paid for himself very quickly.

So in 2001 the Fish Filleting School was set up which for a year only ran one course and that was filleting and nothing else. The fish filleting school expanded and changed its name to the Sea food training centre which now delivers 33 courses in all aspects of the fishing industry.

For the general public they offer cooking and filleting courses, we call it Boat to Throat where any member of the public can come along, pick a species of fish, fillet or prepare it cook it and eat it as a complete meal here.

School visits where children are shown around the North Shields Fish Quay, given the history of the fishing industry and then come to the STC and to watch demonstrations on filleting. Many of children have never seen a lobster or a crab or even a Seafish first hand so giving them the opportunity of a hands on experience is priceless. Sixth formers actually fillet and cook as part of their school curriculum.

They talked to skippers to find out as to why they weren’t taking young people to sea and they said “they just didn’t have time to teach them the basics of a seagoing career” we designed a specific course to fill that need.

The three week taster Training course is designed to give anyone who is thinking of going to sea as a fisherman an opportunity to build up some seamanship skills and obtain the necessary certificates that are required by the MCA (Marine Coastguard Agency) to allow them to go to sea on a fishing vessel.

The fishing industry is the most dangerous industry next to the building industry in this country for fatalities which is why Fishermans safety training is now so heavily regulated.

We offer all the courses a fisherman requires to achieve their skipper’s ticket. This year we have had 32 skippers qualify. Most of them now have their own vessels employing crew.

Through hard work, and talking to the fishing industry they have managed to fill a void in the industry, not only in the North of England but nationally when it comes to fishing through to fish processing.

The fishing industry is still going through hard times with quotas and days at sea being so restricted, but with continuous training & legislation and an eye on sustainability it will hopefully cope with the future growing needs of supermarkets and the general public and be better prepared to face the future as an industry.

The Sea fishing Industry in the UK supports either directly or indirectly the jobs of over 86,000 people in the UK, many of these jobs carried out in rural economies.

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