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The problem is one that the Fisherman’s Mission as a whole is trying to grapple with. As Keith explained they only receive three percent of their funding from the industry which they serve and support. He felt this was indicative of an attitude in which fishing firms do not on the whole recognise a need to support their crew.
Could this be because of deeply entrenched ideas of fishing as being an intrinsically competitive and individualistic pursuit, each man for himself within the freedom of the high seas? If so, it is also combined with the way in which the fishing industry operates within an informal and marginal space, geographically and socially and where dependence on ‘time and tide’ also creates dependence on middlemen, carried to the extreme in the case of capitalistic ‘deep-sea’ fishing.
I mean you talk about cooperation, there’s story after story about Billy stopping boats going to sea, competitive boats going to sea. By one means or another. You know, boat breaks down, competitor’s boat breaks down, they get the boat booked into the engineers to get the problem fixed, low and behold, Billy comes up and says, “next Tuesday you’re doing the independent boat, no you’re not, you’re doing my boat. You don’t do my boat, you’ll never get any work from me again in the harbour”. And that’s not apocryphal, that happened. And it has happened more than once. So I’d say, yeah it was cut-throat. They’d quite happily... what’s the quote? “Nature is red in tooth and claw”.
I have drawn extensively on the experience of Keith Dickson as a public figure in a unique position to assess the industrial stresses and strains affecting the people he has come to know intimately. From other perspectives, different stories might be told, and examples of close relationships of mutual concern between owners, skippers and crews on company boats will also be found. I have tried to present a balanced view of the tensions as they were presented to me. However when placed in a historical perspective some patterns do emerge. The consequences of the technological and economic transformations outlined in this chapter have increased income and living standards for fishing industry producers. Class division within the industry has simultaneously developed, and whilst competition and conflict have always been features of life in fishing communities, some of the social support systems – mutual aid, share ownership and profit distribution – that facilitated fishing ventures and provided a cushion in difficult times, have either disappeared or been modified. In the context of large commercial organization, it seems there has not been a concomitant development of employee rights and welfare provision.
Instead the onus of fisher wellbeing in Newlyn has been taken up by charitable organisations such as the Fishermen’s Mission and the lifeboat institution (RNLI) which depend on the financial support of a broader community beyond the fishing industry. This chapter has therefore highlighted that at least some of the political issues facing what is now an occupational community of fish producers are internal class divisions – inequalities in ownership, safety/risk issues and the returns fishermen receive for their catch – highlighting a lack of unionization or economic alternatives such as fisher co-operatives.
Meanwhile fragmentation of community has also occurred on shore. Keith Dickson felt that the economic pressures in the industry and the growth of inequality had contributed to increased levels of violence in Newlyn, in the pubs and in the home. In addition whilst fishing may be ‘no longer an attractive career’ for many local young people as Keith put it, the degradation of labour associated with concentration in one type of heavily mechanised fishing is also a likely factor.
Coupled with the loss of economic diversity that the lugger era facilitated we can conclude that the growth of Newlyn as a peripheral village marked by relatively high unemployment, poverty and lack of mobility, is a modern phenomenon. The village is now socially more diverse and the relationship between its various subpopulations loosely connected through central institutions such as the lifeboat, the Fishermen’s Mission, the harbour itself, and above all, the presence of the fishing fleet. Although powerful symbols of solidarity, on close inspection these also reveal complexity, conflict and social distance.
Figure 38: Lighthouse, Mevagissey harbour, 2012.
39: Fishermen at Porthleven pulling a lugger out of the harbour, c.1900. Collection of William Stevenson.
Figure 40: Natives of Encounter Bay, Making Cord For Fishing Nets, by George French Angas, from South Australia Illustrated (1847).
Figure 41: Newbiggen beach, C.19th. Old boats were turned up to make homes for the poor. Collection of Newcastle City Libraries.
Figure 42: A boy carrying a coracle to fish in the Towy Estuary in Wales. Photograph by Laurie Sparham (Marshall 1986).
Figure 43: C. 21st postcard depicting Cadgwith c.1890. Published by Lyonesse Designs.
Original photograph from the Gibson Archive.
Figure 44: C. 21st postcard, Cadgwith Cove. Published by Celtic Scene.
Figure 45: The yard in Newlyn where Ripple was rebuilt, 2009.
Figure 46: Kitto’s Boatbuilding yard, Porthleven 1912. Postcard 46.
Figure 47: Newlyn fish market wharf and harbour, 2012.
Figure 48: Newlyn fish market, 2012.
Figure 49: The ice works and fish distribution lorries, Newlyn, 2012.
Figure 50: Ripple (on the far left), moored next to Barnabas and the Penlee lifeboat (to right), Newlyn, 2009.
Figure 51: Penlee lifeboat and new small boat pontoons, Newlyn, 2012.
Figure 52: The old Penlee lifeboat station, now a memorial to the crew of the Solomon Browne, 2012.
Figure 53: The crew of the Solomon Browne 47.
Figure 54: One of W.S. Stevenson and Sons’ trawlers lit up with Christmas lights,
2009. Photograph by Laurence Hartwell.
(http://www.cornwallcommunitynews.co.uk/2011/12/19/lest-we-forget. Accessed 19/10/12).
Figure 55: Newlyn post office, formerly the coastguard building, hence the wide door for launching a boat, 2012.
Figure 56: Trawlers moored alongside the North Pier with engineering workshops and stores, 2012.
Figure 57: The Chapel of Remembrance, Fishermen’s Mission, Newlyn Branch, 2012.
Figure 58: The Chapel of Remembrance, Fisherman’s Mission, Newlyn Branch, with speaker’s lectern and model boats by Ted George, 2012.
Figure 59: The W.S Stevenson and Sons vessel St Georges in a repair dock at Penzance, 2012.
Figure 60: Elizabeth Stevenson at her firm's office in Newlyn harbour, 2012.
Figure 61: W.S. Stevenson and Sons harbour office with many framed photographs of their vessels, 2012.
Figure 62: Roger Nowell at the helm of the William Sampson Stevenson. Photograph by David Secombe (Nowell and Mills 1993).
Figure 63: Roger Nowell with 'Billy' Stevenson in the office of W.S. Stevenson and Sons. Photograph by David Secombe (Nowell and Mills 1993).
5 MEASURING MEN AND MANAGINGFISH The current Common Fisheries Policy is broken. It has not delivered its key objective of an economically viable fishing industry which minimises impacts on marine ecosystems. The health of fish stocks and profitability of fishing businesses have deteriorated, while centralised bureaucracy has proliferated.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) 48
Fisheries in the waters around the UK and other European countries are managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), of which the principle management tool is a quota system. Quotas in fishing are a typical example of an environmental management issue where those people whose livelihoods are directly influenced often feel a sense of conflict with public attitudes that influence policy, and more directly, with the tools for implementing those policies. As anthropologists have shown, what may be contrasted are not so much conflicts of interest, as ways of knowing (Harris 2007; Theodossopoulos 2004; Gray 2000; Cruikshank 2005).
Protagonists defending their perceived livelihood rights, relate their way of knowing to their way of working – their practical labour, whether cultivating land, rearing livestock or fishing at sea. This is how one fisherman described the knowledge and
experience he feels defines the fishing way of life:
There’s something about fishing, and I imagine farming’s very much the same and those sorts of jobs, gamekeeper if you like...Where you’re out there, in the wilderness, you know. You watch the world from afar... You’re living on your wits, you’re using your ingenuity, you have to be creative in a practical sense, you got gut instincts you go by when it comes to weather, you’re dealing with the natural environment, and you’ve got to understand that environment. And it’s a long way, if you like from society. Fishermen are a long way...they’re not, you can come in and integrate into it, but we’re a long way from what society has become.
Knowledge acquired through such activities may be informed by science and statistics, but is often distinguished as something implicit, tacit, and instinctual.
However whilst the politics of environment might lead fishers, scientists and policymakers to take up positions in which forms of knowledge are opposed, in practice there may be significant points of convergence, exchange and similarity.
Just as scientific knowledge arises from forms of tacit as well as explicit, epistemic (http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/cfp/. Accessed 14/08/12).
knowledge (Polanyi 2009), so fisher knowledge may be equally driven by both forms of knowledge, as well as by curiosity, experimentation and observation.
Furthermore through formal schemes such as the Cefas Fisheries Science Partnership 49 and in more diffuse ways, fisher knowledge and scientific knowledge inform and shape one another. However the ‘formal’ knowledge of the ‘expert’ stands on an unequal political footing in contrast to the ‘practical’ knowledge of the lay person, and increasingly so in a technocratic, ‘risk’ focussed Europe (Lash, Szerszynski, and Wynne 1996).
Cruikshank (2005) has written about the various forms of knowledge produced through the co-construction of nature and people in Northwest Canada. Through a historical and ethnographic methodology she traces the confluence of indigenous, colonial and contemporary scientific and environmentalist narratives focused around a shifting glacial landscape. Cruikshank takes up the view that all knowledge is ‘local’ and exists in the encounters of human and non-human agents in specific places and times. However following thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin and Harold Innis, she also examines uneven geo-political flows of knowledge (between state and province, centre and periphery). ‘Encounters’ are frequently also conflicts; and narrative (stories, oral histories) becomes a powerful means of countering the dominant knowledge-systems through which states govern.
In Seeing like a State (1998) Scott draws a distinction between techne and metis.
Tracing an etymology that is the inverse to Ingold’s use of the term ‘techne’ (2000), Scot’s usage refers to the abstract knowledge of the state and its agencies, hegemony of which, Scott aligns with high modernism. ‘Metis’ refers to forms of knowledge more embedded in local experience, which we might refer to in common parlance as ‘know-how’, ‘common sense’, having a ‘knack’ for something. The term ‘metis’ has Greek origins and the English translation is something like ‘cunning’, or ‘craftiness’.
Scott’s application of the term is very similar to Sennett’s notion of craft and craftsmanship (2009). Both see this knowledge which makes use of ‘head’ and ‘hand’, intellect and manual application, as an important aspect of problem solving and a valuable counter-part to formal, epistemic knowledge. Scott provides the A scheme in which the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) a government agency, aims to encourage fishermen and scientists to work in partnership and share knowledge.
example of maritime navigation, where upon nearing port and entering coastal areas of sandbars and rivers, ships captains have traditionally passed navigational responsibility to local pilots. In that context, general cartographic knowledge of oceans is no longer sufficient but must be supplemented by local knowledge, not of all rivers, but of one river in particular. However in ‘high modernism’ such collaboration is undermined or obscured by an ‘imperial scientific view’ and leads to the kinds of social and ecological disasters Scott identifies: monoculture forestry and agriculture, Soviet collectivisation, Le Corbusier’s planned cities. Scott argues that the more remote a context is from the state, the more important and prominent ‘metis’ will be, because without it, self and/or communal sufficiency and innovation would be impossible.
In development studies a concern with livelihoods has led to a large body of literature on the relationship between forms of knowledge imposed by states and other formal bodies and the ‘local/indigenous/traditional’ forms of knowledge of those people and places subject to development projects. As Hobart discusses (1993), imperial discourses of development create their own object – by modelling ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’ in particular ways. The subtitle of Hobart’s collection is The Growth of Ignorance and on the front cover is an illustration of a schoolmaster lecturing to a schoolboy and a manual worker, one submissive, cowed, the other shouldering a bag containing a saw, perhaps signifying a practical, vocational ability vs. the abstract sciences represented on the blackboard. The image reminds the reader that the issue of knowledge gained vs. knowledge lost is not only one that occurs across a West–the Rest / North–South / developed–under developed world axis. In Britain and Ireland, the rise of Anglocentric universal education also led to new standards of language, culture and knowledge that had to be forcibly imposed especially in the non-English speaking peripheries of Wales, Ireland and Scotland.