How often on a warm spring or summer’s morning have you watched as a lone dawn fisherman chugs his way down the Arun, crosses the bar and heads for the open sea? Then later, on the rising tide, watched again as, surrounded by screaming gulls, he heads his evening way up river to a safe mooring? How many times have you envied him his freedom, his independence at making his living from the sea?
Sadly, that idyllic existence isn’t all it seems. Last week after a particularly cold day my friendly fisherman kindly dropped me off two fat orange spotted plaice for my supper. His face was pink and raw, his eyes red and watering, hands swollen, fingers purple and his language just as colourful.
I have been to sea with him and he shouts to himself as he cleans the nets and once ashore it takes a while for his voice to drop to a reasonable level.
In reality all is not well with the small independent inshore fishermen of Littlehampton. Cod quotas are down, the taking of the much prized sea bass forbidden, Dover sole limited and the pair trawlers clean up the summer black bream. Add to these the galling experience of having to throw back dead but perfectly edible fish under the discards system makes not for a happy man. It seems to me that making a living at fishing is becoming more difficult by the day and many of those difficulties originate from faraway.
Next time you watch that lone mariner making his way out to sea, think again before you wish you were in his cold Wellington boots, he is not a tourist attraction, he is a man trying to wrest a living from an unforgiving sea and it appears to me that he is getting precious little help from anyone.
I am delighted that drinking in the town centre is under review but Arun and the town council should also consider enforcing the existing ban on cycling in the pedestrian precinct which is now becoming even more of a problem than the Wine Club.
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