Fleet survey diaries: Covid-19 challenges and opportunities

Joe Cooper, researcher for our annual fishing fleet survey shares the story of a fishermen who adapted his business model in response to Covid-19.

Last summer I joined Seafish as a Fleet Researcher, travelling up and down the UK speaking to fishermen about their day to day and the running of their businesses. This year I’m doing the Fleet Survey again, albeit distantly, listening to what the fisherfolk of the UK are saying about business over the last year. Already I have heard of the unforetold havoc caused by Covid-19, but amongst the stories of hardship are also some heart-warming tales of new opportunities through this challenging time.

When I spoke to fisherman Tony Talbot of St Osyth in East Anglia, he described how different business has been for him so far this year. As restaurants and hotels closed over lockdown, wholesale of his catch stopped, but Tony saw a boost in demand for fresh fish from his retail stall. Tony has put more effort into advertising and selling fresh catch directly to the local community. Through this new system, and with help on the stall from his daughter, he interacted with many new and existing customers, which gave him the chance to share stories about fishing and his seafood business with people.

Tony has been selling his catch from the Point Clear Bay stall since 2003. He has now added blue fish spray painted outside every two meters, to help with social distancing for queuing customers. People have been giving him wonderful feedback about how thankful they are to be able to get fresh fish and what a great service he is providing. Tony says:

Hearing how much my local customers appreciate what I do just adds to my love for fishing. I’m glad to have had this experience before wholesale picked back up again and I returned to business as usual.
Tony Talbot, Fisherman

The data we collect during the Fleet Survey lets us show how the fishing industry is affected by changes in management measures and unforeseen events like Covid-19. This year we are also analysing the economic impacts of the pandemic and lockdown on the seafood industry so that we gain insight which can be used to help build more resilient supply chains. Your contribution is essential to help us accurately and reliably measure the performance of the UK fishing fleet and the challenges its people face. Please keep sending in your completed surveys or give us a call to go through it over the phone.

The Fleet Survey is running throughout September. For more information or support completing the survey form contact fleet.survey@seafish.co.uk or 07876 035 759.