Aboard the Sam of Ladram – Part 2: Climate Change

November 22, 2019


For this trip and the subsequent ones to follow, I had prepared a series of questions to probe those on board, topics that I felt were very much at the conversation forefront, prior, during and long after the conclusion of this commission. Fishers were in a fantastic place to give a much needed insight into current events; who better to discuss the climate than someone who has continued to brave the elements on almost any given day over a long career at sea. With the ongoing saga and debacle that is Brexit, and the simple fact (and one that seems to be gravely lost on our politicians) that Britain is indeed an island country with a fishing industry far too often used as one would use a pawn in a game of chess, to be informed by those working in this very industry, surely their voices held far more weight than someone pushing a pen.

Weeks prior to this first trip back out at sea, I was contacted by a student with questions regarding how sea pollution affects the work of a fisher, as well as the negative impact in turn that they have on the environment. I’ll admit I was a little annoyed by the latter and what I find to be the somewhat typical view; if you have never seen or experienced their graft beyond the horizon line, let alone any further than the harbour side, a little humility, especially if your stance is to change the world, still goes a long way. That said, the lad’s overall intentions did seem mostly positive and I hoped my response would continue to steer him in that direction.

Still, I do feel there is a lot of finger pointing currently, stemmed from variety of sources, some good, some with intentions not so and some just plain ignorant. It doesn’t help when much of this is either generated or easily swallowed via social media; what should be an informed climate change discussion debated through facts, quickly dispenses into many ill-informed opinions and shifting blame. I do feel as if fishers are some of, if not the first to be called out when it comes to what is washed up on our beaches, despite the fact there are not the only industry working the seas. It is also clear we are seeing more and more vessels bringing back their rubbish, as well as the various plastics and such that can accompany the catch; those heading to their respected ports daily, bags full ready to recycle after they land is never noted and I do think this is a shame. Times have clearly changed and as Jon Jon said, we want to protect our own way of living, same as any farmer would with his land. As he stood from his skipper’s chair, there was a definite sense of great responsibility in his demeanour.

Richard also agreed, with his opinion on our seas now in a far healthier state than many years before. Fishing for Litter had been an important factor in this and watching the crew go through each catch, depositing any unwelcome materials into a large white skip bag on deck was a welcome sight to see.

Despite the clear positives so many were making, it is still difficult to avoid the anger that comes with any discussion of climate change; as interesting as it always is to hear the views of others, it is also tiring to listen to those who simply blame everyday hardworking folk trying to make their way in the world, turning a blind eye to the big corporations and countries they are clearly too scared to offend. Signing an agreement acknowledging climate change doesn’t make you immune to the responsibilities thereafter, just as declaring we will change! decades from now, simply because too soon would annoy shareholders and their vast accounts if whatever change happened overnight. Protest groups can continue to jump on the roofs of subway trains and hold up cities with a mass sit-down in the streets, how that is helping raise awareness I’ll never know, but when they condemn their own country while actively choosing to ignore the far greater global polluters of this world such as China and India, it is hard to form any kind of empathy with their movement.


But what of the change? As a 40 year fisherman, Jon Jon had certainly seen a transition. The water temperatures are certainly warmer, and there is more abundance of aquatic life. More species of shark, tuna, pilot whales, all chasing the many nutrients of the sea. Bad weather is certainly more frequent, he paused, though not necessarily more severe. This week of constant Force 7 to 8, with a one day Thursday break down to a 5, seemed to adhere to his thoughts.

The water is warmer, Richard added, Tuna, Jellyfish. Lots of Jellyfish! Blue Sharks. This did surprise me, and with temperatures set to rise markedly by a few more degrees in the next decade or so, what other species would come to frequent our waters and markets?

The obvious change in our climate did make me wonder where we as a species was heading, yet there is only so much anyone can do, or take, without going crazy. I’d like to think my carbon footprint low and my family is lucky to own a little slice of Devonshire land, growing what we can (and pretty well if I do say so myself) while respecting whatever else lives in the surrounding area. In the last few years I have moved away from eating meat, seeing myself as more of a pescatarian, though after being on deck in the cold and wet, a Force 8 smacking unabated at your chops, when Stanley serves you up a Beef Stew, no fuss is ever made except for how many extra rounds of bread one can have!


In the end it should be about balance and finding some happy medium of where we are comfortable while avoiding the extremes some may sadly go to. We can’t simply change who and what we are as a species overnight and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilt about the fact, but we can begin to make amends and find a recognised common goal to work towards. I think the short version and point I am trying to make in all this; how about we don’t go around pointing fingers first at just fishermen and women for everything wrong with our seas, okay?

Tony Fitzsimmons

Tony Fitzsimmons is a documentary photographer and aspiring photojournalist based in the south-west of England. Waterdance have commissioned Tony to go out to sea with our fishing crews to document life on board the Waterdance fleet. Please note: any views expressed in these posts belong to Tony or the crew members, and are in no way representative of Waterdance Limited.

View Tony Fitzsimmons’ portfolio

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!