Lessons Learned from the Frozen North

Rosie Magudia accompanied a group of fishermen and scientists from the UK case study, as they visited Steigen, Norway. You can read her other blog posts on this trip here

It’s now been a week since I was in Norway. And on reflection, there are quite a few stories to tell… But perhaps the most relevant to GAP2 is that of the lessons learned by our British fishermen in a foreign land.

Adding Value
How the Norwegians added value to their product, gave fisherman Jon Dornom pause for thought. While in Norway, we witnessed fish being taken from the sea to the factory to the market, all within a few square miles. On being processed, cod were graded meticulously according to their weight, freshness and condition. Fish quality was a priority for fisherman and processor alike and meant the industry could retain value at the beginning of the supply chain.

Public Engagement
Norwegian citizens obviously eat a lot of fish; specifically, a lot of cod. Jan Andersen, our host and retired fisherman, explained that Norwegians catch enough fish to produce 40 million fish dinners every day. Considering the nation’s population is only 5 million, fish isn’t just for Friday in Norway.

This, combined with the prominence of the fishing industry in Norway’s culture means that the public seems to know more about the local fisherman and his catch than is true in the United Kingdom. Alan Steer, crab fisherman from Dartmouth, cited the public’s interest in sustainable fish as a key factor in establishing a sustainable fishing industry.

In Norway, fishermen have the opportunity to undergo a four-year apprenticeship scheme if they want to. The course teaches budding young fishermen things like boat maintenance, navigation and fish biology – all critical to the lives of fishers, but knowledge learned “on the job” in the UK.

Considering the technological advances in boat equipment, the requirement for sustainable fisheries management and the ubiquitously high death rate for the industry– such a scheme seems like a good idea to quite a few of the British fishers abroad.

Kevin Arscott, Yealm fisherman commented: “Training on the job’s ok, but you can’t beat a proper rounded apprenticeship. They’ve got that over here for fishermen. Four years – two years in school, two years on the job…it’s a good think to think about”.

Wider Perspective
And finally, the bigger picture. Not only was it fun to tramp around Norway in the cold and the snow – to wear bobble hats and sunglasses while thinking about fish more than one ought –  it was also invaluable to see how “other people do it”.

Professor Paul Hart, a scientist working with the British fisherman who attended the trip also, concluded our lesson in sustainability by remarking that the Devon fishermen now held “a better appreciation of the global perspective of the problems relating to fisheries.

In their everyday lives, they are very focused on one species taken from one small area. [often crab]. The Norwegian experience broadened  perspectives and will make it easier  to appreciate that sustainability issues are global.”

And so endeth the lesson from Norway. Want to learn more about fishing from other parts of the world? Read the rest of the GAP2 exchange blogs.

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