The Documentary Podcast
The British and their fish
Thursday, 22 October
By the middle of the 20th century, the English town of Grimsby was the biggest fishing port in the world. When the catch was good “fishermen could live like rock stars”, says Kurt Christensen who first went to sea aged 15. He was instantly addicted to a tough and dangerous life on the waves. But from the 1970s onwards, the industry went into decline. Today it contributes just a tenth of one percent to Britain’s GDP – less than Harrods, London best known department store. So how can such a tiny industry cause so much political havoc and threaten to scupper a post Brexit deal with Europe? Fishing communities have often blamed EU membership - and the foreign boats that have arrived as a result - for a steep fall in catches over the last half century. Many coastal towns voted overwhelmingly for Britain to leave the European Union. Now, Grimsby’s recently-elected Conservative MP – the first non-socialist the town has sent to Westminster in nearly 100 years - has spoken of a modern fleet and fresh opportunities. For Assignment, Lucy Ash travels to Grimsby to hear how fishing towns like this, ignored for decades by London’s political elite, now hope finally to turn a corner. She explores the huge place fishing plays in the British psyche and asks if the cold, stormy seas around Britain really can make coastal communities rich once again.
Producer Mike Gallagher
(Image: A trader examines a haddock at the daily Grimsby Fish Market auction. Credit: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)