Career case studies — Seafish

Career case studies

Emma Moffat, Fish Buyer

Emma Moffat, 28, is a Fish Buyer for Grimsby based seafood supplier Icelandic Seachill who employ 1400 staff in the UK, providing chilled fish to the UK retail market.

"I graduated with a degree in English Language, Literature and Creative writing and soon started working in adult education for the public sector, helping adults to read and write. 

The course of my career soon switched, due to being made redundant and although it wasn't a conscious decision to join the Seafood Industry, I applied and was accepted onto Cumbrian Seafoods' graduate management scheme.

Part of my induction into Cumbrian Seafoods was spent working in production which involves turning the fish caught into the final product. I found that I loved working in the factory environment and this experience led to me running production nightshift until unfortunately, Cumbrian went into administration and I found myself looking for a new job... again! 

From past experience, I knew that adversity can lead to opportunities, so with invaluable hands on experience and fish knowledge, I was in a strong position to find another job in the Seafood industry, where there is a huge range of opportunities. The added bonus was that I'd met my boyfriend at Cumbrian Seafoods, so together we moved to Grimsby, the heart of the British seafood industry and both secured new roles with Icelandic Seachill.

My role as a fish buyer varies from day to day, but my main responsibilities are to ethically and sustainably source raw material in line with the needs of our individual customers which requires me to really understand our supply chains.

In this industry it is important to be a people person - I gained vital people skills when working in adult education which have enabled me to confidently communicate with people from all walks of life, an essential part of my job.

I work with a lot of experienced people who are experts in their field and I'm often amazed by the knowledge they impart. Most people in the industry are incredibly passionate about the work that they do, making it impossible not to become enthusiastic about my job and the industry itself.

In my role I've been lucky enough to travel to Iceland, Holland and Brussels, along with numerous trips to Aberdeen and Peterhead. In the coming year, I'm hoping to spend time in Norway and Canada to gain an increased knowledge of fish sourcing on a more global scale.

I receive a salary which I think is above average for someone of my age, and I know that the long hours I work are appreciated and recognised. I feel very fortunate to work for my current company as they have given me access to excellent training opportunities to help further my career.

I want to continue broadening my industry knowledge in the hope that I will be able to impart some of my knowledge and enthusiasm to encourage more young people into the industry."

Ben Bengey, Skipper

Ben Bengey, 19, is the skipper of Silver Spirit and one of the youngest skippers in the North Devon fishing fleet. Based out of Ilfracombe North Devon, Ben also runs Silver Spirit Charter who provide angling trips and lobster safaris.

"I have always loved the sea. As a child, my dad had a boat and was also on the local lifeboat crew so I was used to waking up and playing with boats from a young age. When I was 10, I started crewing various charter boats in the summer. When I finished school at 15 with some GCSEs, I planned on spending another summer charter fishing, but on Friday the 13 July 2012, I went on my first everyday lobster potting boat and from that point forward, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Nothing can really set you up for what you're getting into when you join the fishing industry - there is nothing like it. A good work ethic and the ability to listen is really important, as is having thick skin. You need to be willing to laugh at yourself, take little digs and enjoy the banter when out on the open water. I quickly learnt that sleep wins over everything else - no girl is worth staying up for - four hours sleep is not enough!

Time keeping is vital - setting the alarm for 2am and knowing you have to get out your warm bed is hard, but if you don't, you miss the tide and end up stuck in the harbour for five or more hours before getting out to sea. I've also found that IT skills and knowledge of Engineering are helpful to the job.

The seafood industry has provided funding for a lot of courses, which meant by the time I was 17 I had my under 16.5 meter skippers licence and a RYA Yacht masters licence. For a short while I was the youngest skipper in the county.

Being at sea all day means I get to see something others would pay a lot of money to see, I'm always taking my phone out to snap a sunrise or sunset or to get videos of dolphins. I do moan about getting up at a silly time and tell people to stick in at school, but I love my job and wouldn't change it… well maybe I'd take more fish and less rain!

Since I've started building up my skill base my pay has gone up and the working hours are okay - on the early tides I work about 10-12 hour a day. The faster the crew works the faster we get home so it's in the crew's interest to build up their skills so that we can work shorter days. The big benefit is being away from land, you can forget about your life back home and the worries you have and be at one with the sea (or maybe that's just me!)

In the future, I'll do more training tickets, but at the moment I don't have any need for them. My plan going forward is to improve the company and invest in a new boat so that I can work more days at sea and create a safer working environment for the crew."

James and Bonny Ritchie, Fish and Chip Shop Owners

James Ritchie, 29, is co-owner along with his wife Bonny, of Simpsons Fish and Chips in Cheltenham. Simpsons are currently shortlisted for Fish and Chip Shop of the Year as part of the National Fish and Chip Awards, recognising and rewarding those who are providing the best fish and chips across the UK.

"Food has featured in most of my career, although not in my education. When I was 15 I started working for Pizza Hut, as well as attending college. My passion was being creative, so I went on to study Fine Art and that's where I met my (now) wife, Bonny.

At the time Bonny was working for her parent's fish and chip shop, so with my experience in food service and my knowledge of food hygiene and customer service, I followed suit and started working there too.

After graduating university, rather than pursue degree related careers, we decided to stick to what we knew and used the skills and practices honed in Bonny's parent's shop, to open a new fish and chip business together. Having hands on experience and knowledge of how a fish and chip business operates, we were determined to be our own bosses and make our new venture work. Although it might not seem a natural fit, my degree has been beneficial to this role as it has enabled me to create a really strong brand for our shop.

I think the real perks to the industry are getting to meet new people and receiving recognition for what we do. It has been very rewarding for us personally to set-up and run a successful and well-known business. Travel is also a real perk; I've been to Norway, visited fishing ports, potato farms, factories, other fish and chip shops and attended industry events. If we win National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year we will get to go to Japan to prepare fish and chips as part of their annual British Fair run by the Hankyu department store.

I believe you need to have passion to be successful in the fish and chip trade as it's not the easiest industry to be a part of and you have to actually care to succeed. Saying that, I love being my own boss as it gives me flexibility which enables me to spend a reasonable amount of time with my young family. I'm paid enough to get by but I hope this will increase as the business grows further; we're still fairly new, so heavily re-investing a lot of the money we make.

I am a strong ambassador for our trade which keeps me very busy. Simpsons are trying to be at the forefront of the industry and I aim to always do a good job representing the industry as a whole alongside the British icon - fish and chips."

George Hooper, Fishmonger

George Hooper, 20, is a Director and Fishmonger at his family business GCH Fishmongers, in Bedfordshire. The shop provides a selection of fresh fish sourced daily from Newlyn, Grimsby, Billingsgate and Wales.

"After leaving school with a variety of GCSEs, I worked as a regional fish specialist and fish counter trainer for a leading supermarket.

Working in the seafood industry has provided me with many opportunities to meet people across the UK and the rest of the world.

Recently I was named as the youngest ever winner of the British Fish Craft Championships; it was an unforgettable moment for me and one I'll always be proud of.

I'd wanted to work in the seafood sector since I was little, and had big ambitions of helping to run the family business as soon as I was old enough.

You never stop learning in the seafood industry and the knowledge that you develop has to be one of my favourite parts of the job. I would encourage anyone who's considering a career in the industry to take the plunge and do it, there's so much opportunity and room for progression.

One of the key skills that you learn quickly when training to be a fishmonger is how to communicate effectively. For me, being able to speak to customers is probably the most crucial part of the role, as is being confident enough to have faith in your ability - whether in relation to species knowledge or knife skills. It's a great feeling when you are able to go above and beyond to meet the customer expectations and deliver great results.

As director of the company, I've also gained hands-on experience in business management, learning about the buying and selling process and gaining a better understanding of how a business operates whilst doing the job.

Travel is an added bonus to working in this industry, with my next trip planned to Norway, to visit Halibut farms. I'm excited to see what the future will bring and I'm looking forward to even more progression by increasing the number of hotels, restaurants and pubs we supply.

Working in the seafood industry can definitely open doors to a world of opportunity."

George and Dino Papadamou, Fish and Chip Shop Owners

George Papadamou, 24, and Dino Papadamou, 25, are brothers and joint partners in their family business - Papa's Fish and Chips. Prior to joining the family business, George graduated with a degree in medicine and worked as a doctor for a year, whilst Dino achieved a degree in law and spent a year working as a solicitor.

"The fish and chip industry has always attracted us, even from a young age. When the opportunity arose to join our family business we jumped at the chance and haven't looked back since.

We believe fish and chips is the nation's favourite dish, and take great pride and satisfaction in adapting the dish, its cooking techniques and practices for the 21st century consumer.

For us there's also an element of diversity in our role, a modern day fish frier does far more than the name might suggest. We have designed websites, marketing material, company promotions, undergone training courses and taken on and managed seafood apprentices.

Recently we were named as Young Fish Frier of the Year finalists as part of Drywites search for the best young fish friers in the country. This was a great achievement for us both and came alongside our new restaurant in Hull being shortlisted as one of the UK's top five fish and chip restaurants in the 2016 National Fish & Chip Awards.

Working in seafood has provided us with numerous opportunities to travel. We have spent time visiting factories of suppliers, both in the UK and abroad, as well as being invited to visit the Norwegian embassy by the Norwegian export council. Travelling to visit suppliers is a crucial part of the job as it helps us to ensure products are of the highest quality and consistency.

There are numerous perks to working in the sector, aside from the delicious fish and chips you get to enjoy on a regular basis, the role is also very well paid. Fish frying is actually recognised as a skill within the industry and highly experienced fish friers can expect to be paid above the average living wage.

Working in such large teams, coupled with the huge amount of customer interaction also ensures that the working day is never dull."