The most abhorrent occupation in the world?

Imagine you have a business.

You’re not breaking any laws and its something your family have been doing for hundreds of years. Your whole community has been doing it and whole cultures, traditions, music, stories and clothes have evolved around it. Industries have thrived on your products. Your product is gluten free, contains no additives, has a low carbon cost, doesn’t involve ploughing and transforming the land and gives us beautiful food that kings and commoners alike adore.

Your industry is one where workers can do well just by dint of tenacity and hard work. The aristrocracy and powerbrokers don’t go near it. Your activity is the source of identity for coastal communities. At work you are free.

Now imagine, having been bombarded with insultingly simplistic hyperbole about the impacts of your industry, that the middle classes decide not to like you. They view your job as one for greedy, good for nothing skivers, folk that take something for nothing. These people are more articulate than you, better off, better connected, more numerous and have no economic link to your business. If you fail it has no impact on them. In fact, they earn more money the more despicable they can make you appear. Casting aspersions on your character and industry is a multi-million pound business. Not only that but their success in vilifying you makes them feel smug. These people make such a good job of making you look bad because that is what they are paid to do, they can afford good lawyers and bad politicians.

You, on the other hand, are paid to work. Not to wear a suit and sit in an office wearing a shirt and tie in meeting after meeting, discussing the nuances of situations over canapes.

You find yourself and your industry being eroded. Not by fact-based evidence but by the wild ramblings of people who are ideologically driven to persecute those that make a living from a common resource.

If this is you my friend, you are a fisherman. Be proud. Be strong. Be safe.

Dr Magnus Johnson is a lecturer in Environmental Marine Science at the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences, University of Hull. His views are his own.


10 thoughts on “The most abhorrent occupation in the world?

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  2. How refreshing to hear these observations from one who teaches Fisheries Science. I take my hat off to you Dr Johnson.

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  5. Professor, I appreciate your essay- the anguish you feel is palpable, but complaining is the enemy of positive action. Ok, your occupation is suffering a smear campaign. You can talk about it all day and write passionate essays, but it’s just more talk! What are you going to do about it? I see potential alliances everywhere that the fishing community has failed to cultivate. Right now- these same smug, tree hugging, middle class, armchair environmentalists are experiencing a “foodie revival”. Never has there been so much interest (or so much money) in the growing organic and “locavore” food movements. The fishermen supply a cage free, sustainably harvested, low fat, wild caught product! There is huge interest in reducing waste- hook and line fisherman have virtually zero waste in harvesting their product and they employ more people per pound of fish harvested than any other segment. Organic farmers dominate the locavore and celebrity chef conversation, where are the fishermen? Do you want an ally in the fight to increase black sea bass limits? Have you contacted your local shellfish farmers? Why not? Aquaculture and environmental restoration of shellfish beds are recipients of millions in federal and state economic grant dollars- don’t you think they’d like to protect their investments? What do sea bass eat after all? This fishing culture and its masculine tradition of solitude and independence is not an asset in this fight to save your industry, you’ve been in an echo chamber and preaching to the choir for far too long. It’s going to take courage, serious diplomacy and a little bit of eating crow, to reach out to these very popular, rapidly growing, environmentally conscious movements and persuade them to help you bear your standard, but how badly do you want to save your way of life? You can light a candle or you can curse the darkness- what’s it going to be?

    • Sorry, been really busy and not had time to respond to your thought provoking comment. Re angling, the economics depend on who you listen to and the angling fraternity don’t support the same kind of rural infrastructure that the commercials do. I’m a bit schizophrenic about angling – I’ve worked with them in the past and viewed them as potential monitors of the marine environment (see: but I am also deeply disturbed by the morality of catching and landing fish for pleasure rather than food using a dubious method (see:

      The fishing industry has done quite well in liaising with other sectors and some NGOS but I think your point about making better links with organic farmers is an important one. The history of the two industries in the UK is quite different though. Farming is an occupation for gentlemen or their tenants whereas few folk would describe fishermen as “gentlemen” and the landed gentry have had little to do with the industry.

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  7. Nice to finally see something positive written about fishing by someone the elites might have to acknowledge.
    Sunamy of bad pr and copy flooding the media just now regards trawlers particularly ,but fishing in general,must be costing someone a lot of favours…lot of windfarms going up aren’t there.
    Mariners handbook says not to work near or over HT power cables but developers are saying it’s ok on environmental impact statements….. insurance industry will have last say and fishing will be stopped.

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