This short ethnographic film highlights the subjective, relational and material aspects of wellbeing associated with fishing and reflects on what the future holds for a British fishing community and its fishermen. It is set on the North Norfolk coast, where there is a beach fishery for crab and lobster that has existed and persisted for centuries.
It currently comprises approximately 60 boats, under 10 metres in length, with the largest concentration on Cromer beach, which once supported hundreds of boats on a single beach in the 1900s and gives its name to the famous ‘Cromer crab’, known for its small size and sweet taste. The film starts with some of the fishermen chatting in the local café in Cromer after they come back from the sea. One of the fishers, Keith, talks about the deep sense of identity he has from being a fisherman and his relationship with the sea, which he describes as ‘just another part of nature’. He emphasises how vital going to sea is for his well-being.
The second fisherman, Jim, talks about how he was drawn to fishing and to the sea, how he has learnt to respect the sea and some of the spiritual connections he has had with nature. He describes his relationship with the sea as similar to that of a farmer with his land, taking care of it and taking from it fairly and sustainably.
Jim and Keith discuss the sharp decline in fishing across the UK and their fears for the future of their communities. In the past, fishers could alternate between types of fishing, focusing on crab and lobster fishing in the summer months. However, today many boats depend solely on crab and lobster all year due to a lack of quota for other species.
Over the last twenty years or so, fishers have bought lighter fibreglass boats that allow them to work on their own, with a smaller crew. This transformation was motivated by a need to minimise costs and the reduced availability of reliable crew locally, leaving between 12 to 16 boats only. There is a sense, as both fishers speak, that fishing has become an increasingly tough livelihood to earn a living from, within a harsh and unforgiving environment. Keith talks about the need for holistic conservation that includes conserving a future for fishers, including his grandson, whom he has supported in becoming a fisher. Their hopes for the future are for a more balanced and kinder environment that allows them to live in harmony with nature, continuing to do what they love and passing this livelihood on to the next generation.
The film was made in collaboration between the School of International Development, University of East Anglia and Postcode Films.