Cornish Fisheries in the Twentieth Century

Paul Willerton

The century opened in the wake of Thomas Huxley’s much (mis)quoted statement that the sea’s resources ‘were inexhaustible’.1 One hundred years later another scientist, Professor Callum Roberts, declared that ‘Fish will vanish from British waters in 20 years.’2 The first statement was untrue and the second remains unproven, but, nevertheless, these distinguished scientists leave us to ponder what did happen during the middle hundred years of this span of 150 that led from apparent plenty to possible famine. Are the fisheries of Cornwall affected by the same forces that have influenced the rest of the world, particularly the Atlantic Ocean, Western Europe and the British Isles, during this time frame? This chapter will examine whether change occurred in the natural environment, the technology associated with fishing activity, the infrastructure of Cornwall and its neighbours affecting the landing and marketing of produce, and the regulatory framework.

Economists use a multiplier of about five – sometimes a little more, sometimes a point or so less – to work out the total numbers of people involved in a fishery as compared with the numbers employed at sea.3 Thus in a relatively small county such as Cornwall multiplying the numbers of fishers employed at sea by such a factor starts to give significance to the contribution made by the industry to the economy of the county. This has social and political implications beyond the scope of this study but must nevertheless be borne in the mind by the reader. An example of this effect will be the use of funds from the European Union (so-called Objective One, PESCA, etc.) available to the county during the later years of the twentieth century.4 Many of the proposals put forward involved securing the future of Cornish fisheries or regeneration and the management of change when failure of sections of the fishing industry loomed. This was a supreme irony when the anti-European opinions expressed by sections of the Cornish community are considered. Such views are apparently based on maritime adventures from many years ago: ‘It has not been forgotten that in 1595 Spanish raiders landed and burnt Paul, Penzance and Newlyn, including Paul church.’5

In forming an impression of the development of Cornish fisheries during this hundred years there are few aspects etched clearly but many minor fissures leading in myriad directions.6 It is difficult to ignore certain milestones: the two world wars; the years of recovery after the Second World War; population growth leading to an increasing demand for food; and the increasing efficiency of fishers in killing target species and other biota alike. These are ‘universal’ features of the fishing industry from which Cornwall was not immune and which thus must also be drawn into the contextual background.

The Natural Environment

The principal features of the Cornish coast – its estuaries, off-lying seabed and adjacent shelf seas – have not been significantly altered by earthquake or other seismic disaster during the twentieth century. Neither have there been any major changes in the oceans and surrounding seas. However, this is not to say that there has been no change. It has been well recorded by meteorologists, oceanographers and biologists that cyclical changes in the environment have occurred. Southward’s papers concerning rhythmic change in sea temperature off the southern coastline of the peninsula and the resultant impact on herring and pilchard catches are a classical illustration of such natural change.7 Similarly, there has been change due to anthropomorphic activity. Pollution has by definition to cause harm or damage; contamination, on the other hand, does not necessarily.8 The difficulty is to measure the effect of a contaminant to discover if it is harmless. For example, those who have dived or trawled in Cornish waters will have observed clinker and coal lost or discharged from coal-fired ships, much of it during the early years of the twentieth century, but has it had any deleterious impact? Damage by other hydrocarbon discharges originating from maritime incidents and deliberate acts has been measurable: the losses of the oil tankers Torrey Canyon (1967) and Sea Empress (1996) have had immediate, medium-term and perhaps long-term impacts on fisheries in the English Channel and Celtic Seas, but what of the integrated effect of leaks and discharges of oil and other material from wrecks, ships on passage or in port and shore-based facilities?9 The biologists can show us examples of diseased fish or distorted dog whelks but the total direct impact on Cornish fish stocks might never be known. However, there can be little doubt that such effects caused by man intensified as the century passed and it is not yet known whether they climaxed before its end.

Evidence also exists from direct observation and video film of the action of fishing gears on the seabed. The dragging of wires, ropes, otter-boards and dredges of various types through sometimes sensitive environments has extinguished species and materially altered the topography of the seabed. Off south Devon work done by the Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA) and the University of Plymouth under a European Union contract in 1993, and subsequently by the Devon Wildlife Trust, showed considerable damage to corals and the softer reef rocks, leading to possible destruction.10 There is no reason to suspect that vulnerable sites on the adjacent submarine acres off Cornwall will not have been similarly harrowed.

The number of wrecks off the Cornish coast increased greatly during the world wars owing to sinkings caused by torpedo, bomb and mine.11 While these wrecks have had adverse environmental impacts many have, by default, become artificial reefs sheltering immature species within them and forming refuges from strong tidal streams for carnivores awaiting delivery of their next meal by the current. A new fishery developed in the 1960s to reap this harvest.12

Tidal streams are relatively strong particularly around headlands, but even off-shore the use of set nets is limited to neap tide and/or slack water periods. The threat of climate change, identified in the latter years of the twentieth century, has had a number of noticeable influences,13 including an increase in the number of warm-water species being caught and some reduction in cold-water fishes. Increasing rainfall and frequency of storms has led to more land run-off. The National Trust has declined to continue repairing storm damage at Mullion, whose harbour works were barely 100 years old, and other harbour owners are taking a similar stand.14 Sea-level rise has not yet had any serious impact, as the steepness of much of the Cornish coast makes it less prone to flooding than some places on the east coast of England.15 However, harbour works, including lock gates built during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, might be at risk in the future.

In general terms the ecology of Cornish waters can be described as mixed, with a wide range of species establishing themselves on and around their preferred substrates. The history of twentieth-century fisheries has been one of opportunistic exploitation of aquatic resources as social and economic forces drove forward together with technical advances that allowed fishers to go faster, deeper, more accurately and with heavier gear.

It is well established that world fisheries expanded between the early 1950s and the end of the century by about five times, from approximately 20m tonnes to above 100m tonnes and from the mid-1970s the proportion of the fish taken flowing from aquaculture began to rise, reaching nearly a fifth of the total twenty-five years later. This increased consumption is graphically illustrated in Figure 29.1. The pressures that brought this about have been hinted at above and, as has been postulated, Cornwall was not free of the pressure to join this race for fish. Unable to compete in terms of bulk fishes for pelagic species, with catches of herring and pilchard uneconomic when compared to other parts of the world, such as South African pilchard canneries, and with the allocation of quota for the regenerated offshore mackerel stock to the Scots fleet, the fishers of Cornwall had to look to quality rather than quantity for their salvation.16 This they did by fishing for high-value demersal fish.17 It is interesting to note that a small-scale fishery for high-quality line-caught mackerel was retained in the county. Line-caught fish are preferred as they suffer less mechanical damage during capture and release flavour-enhancing enzymes in attempting to escape the hook.

Because of the lack of suitable sites the large-scale culture of fish or shellfish did not happen to parallel the experience elsewhere, such as on the west coast of Scotland, in Norway or in Galicia (north-west Spain). The National Lobster Hatchery has been established at Padstow and Figure 29.1 Newlyn Landings during the Twentieth Century restocking (or ranching) on offshore reefs and around rocky islands is developing, but owing to the slow growth rates of these crustaceans few results are as yet known.18 As a conservation measure, the oyster fishery continues in the River Fal under sail, but is under threat from alien species.19


Figure 29.1 Newlyn Landings during the Twentieth Century

Fishing Technology

‘Technical creep’ is an expression best illustrated by viewing a photograph from the early years of the century taken in Newlyn, with drifters moored right across the harbour, and then realising that by the close of those 100 years their total catch could now be taken by one vessel. Much had changed; propulsion systems had migrated from sail to steam and then quite rapidly to the internal combustion engine; hulls, masts and spars were more quickly fabricated and repaired when made from steel; deck machinery, winches, haulers and net handling gear became mechanised with the migration through manpower to steam and then hydraulic systems. Many small vessels in the Cornish fleet were by the closing years of the century worked single-handed, an unsafe practice badly justified by economic necessity.20 Navigation and fish finding have been revolutionised by the development of electronic charts, fish-finding sonar, track plotters, satellite navigation and sophisticated radio communications. Due to miniaturisation and the economics of mass production such equipment is considered essential on every commercial fishing vessel, from a four-metre dory working inshore grounds all around the coast to the largest trawlers from Newlyn.

The first Newlyn-owned steam drifter came to the port in 1908, some years behind the fleets of the east coast, which had more ready access to coal bunkering ports, and the decline of sail was also relatively slow.21 However, by the end of the First World War vessels equipped with petrol/paraffin engines appeared, followed by the safer options of semi-diesels. By the 1970s smaller vessels were powered by marinised diesel lorry engines and were able to run hydraulic auxiliaries. Larger vessels, especially the beam trawlers, required more powerful diesel engines rated at several hundred horse power, with separate generators for electrical power. Steel construction methods, the necessity to make longer passages to fishing grounds and the need to stay at sea in adverse weather led to larger vessels being built or bought into the Newlyn fleet.


29.1 Motor Pilchard Drivers, anchored in Porthleven harbour channel at low tide, preparing for sea and a night’s fishing in the 1920s. A few sport ‘new’ wheelhouses, and the crew of PZ.192 ~ Marjorie, have a ‘brew-on’ down in the fore-cuddy. Hawke, Helston photo (3227) (Tony Pawlyn collection)

With a few notable exceptions the fishing methods used at the beginning of the century have either been transformed or eclipsed by new methods that have evolved from the technological advances in vessel and machinery design together with the development of synthetic twines and fibres. It is, perhaps, only in the shellfish fisheries, potting in particular, where little change has occurred, but even in these fisheries the equipment has moved from the use of locally sourced materials to pots and creels constructed of steel, plastic and synthetic twines. The irony of this and similar changes is that the materials are less bio-degradable and hence less friendly to the environment.

The pelagic species, sardine/pilchard, mackerel and herring, were taken by drift netting, but in those fisheries remaining active these species are now taken by trawls (single or pair) or purse seines. The mid-water trawls are derivatives of otter trawls developed for demersal fisheries between the two world wars. Purse seines (a surrounding net whose lower opening can be closed with a purse line), with the ability to handle large nets and their warps using powerful hydraulic systems, spread throughout the world. Some Scots vessels fishing in the mackerel fishery in the 1980s used this method but few, if any, Cornish-based craft have done so.22 The predominant method used at the close of the century in pelagic fisheries is pair trawling, in which a large trawl is towed between two vessels of approximately equally power. The latter method was also used very successfully in the 1990s as a seasonal fishery for bass. Again, the fishery is dominated by Scots and French boats.

Demersal catches, once caught by hook and line or single beam trawls, were by the later years of the twentieth century taken by otter trawls (the net mouth being kept open in the horizontal plane by boards or doors giving a swept area of sea bed far wider than a beam trawl) or by twin beam trawlers. The former method is practised by some relatively small craft – for example, those from 8m in length – able to work from the smaller ports, whereas beam trawling, requiring large powerfully engined vessels, is based on Newlyn. Beam trawling as a method was developed by the Dutch in the southern North Sea in the 1950s and the first vessel to enter the Cornish fishery was a second-hand Dutch beamer introduced to the Newlyn fleet in 1976.23 Thereafter this section of the demersal fleet grew to about thirty vessels and was rivalled only by Brixham in Devon. Beam trawling has to catch high-value species, especially flat fish, to cover the cost of the large fuel bills necessitated by dragging heavy gear along the seabed to take species that spend part of their life as infauna.

A further development was the use of set nets of varying types. These nets tended to be of nylon mono-filament or other synthetic twine (and were therefore developed in the latter half of the century) and used in those places where fish might aggregate which were not accessible to trawlers. The many reefs and wrecks around the Cornish coast in the English Channel and Celtic Sea are ideal. Because of the strength of tidal streams these sites could be fished only at slack water and/or neap tide times.

As indicated above, much of the change in fishing methods occurred in the wake of the Second World War, either as a direct result of technologies spawned in aid of the conflict or during the period of industrialisation throughout the world in the post-war recovery years. This applied also to the construction of vessels, with wood being replaced to a great extent by steel and composites (predominantly glass-reinforced plastic (GRP)). The diesel engine became the overwhelming source of propulsive power in vessels large and small. Auxiliary power, electric or hydraulic, became standard in all boats. Navigational equipment advanced from compass, log line (perhaps) and lead line (occasionally) to levels of sophistication in which the smallest craft working out of Cornish ports will possess GPS (global positioning system), echo sounders/fish finders, electronic charts, track recorders and so on, enabling skippers to return to pots, set nets or favourite trawling grounds knowing that he will be within a few metres of his desired position. The requirement for local knowledge has been perhaps reduced as these global trends advance.

Fish are a perishable product having a fresh shelf life measurable in hours. The use of ice to retard the process of decay had been known for some time and until early in the twentieth century ice was imported from Norway. Corin records that an ice works was opened in Newlyn by an enterprising fisherman in 1908 and was acquired at a later date by the Stephenson family. It allowed vessels to take ice to sea all year round and provided ice for the market and the important rail link to London and the Midlands.24 Salting was long established as a means of preservation and a small trade exporting barrels of salted pilchards to Italy existed until the beginning of the twenty-first century. Likewise, the smoking of fish, such as mackerel, to preserve it was a well-known practice and during the mackerel boom of the 1970s and 1980s factories were established to process this fish. Channel Foods in Truro processed a range of mackerel products, including pâté, as well as a variety of smoked products, but, being unable to compete with larger producers to achieve economies of scale, they closed. Other than ‘cottage’ industries there remains little secondary processing in Cornwall, the vast majority of the catch – as much as 80 per cent – being taken out of the county as fresh product. Much of this is taken by road to Poole in Dorset and then by ferry to France and Spain.25

The problem of scale has bedevilled many aspects of Cornwall’s fishing industry, as it has been unable to produce commodities in sufficient volume to compete with imports from elsewhere in the world. As indicated above, the canning of pilchards is a classic example. To counter this trend efforts have been made to develop niche markets in which the key selling point is quality as opposed to quantity.


Falmouth has a fine natural harbour, but has been dominated by commercial shipping activity to the almost total exclusion of fishing. Instead, Newlyn has predominated as the principal fishing port in the county. The statistics (Table 29.1) will show that its throughput is greater than that of all the other Cornish ports combined. Newlyn is thus a fishing port of national importance and was so throughout the twentieth century, excpet for a short period in the 1970s a large fleet of Russian and East European factory ships used to anchor off Falmouth to take delivery of mackerel from UK catchers as the Russians had no quota to catch mackerel in UK waters. This resulted in Falmouth being credited with a large tonnage (that was never landed) but little in terms of quality or value, except to the service industries such as chandlers, with which the town was well blessed as a result of the commercial shipping activity in the Fal estuary.

Table 29.1 Tonnage and Value of Fish Landings in Cornish Ports in 2000


Tonnage Landed (tonnes)

Value £m













Source: abstracted from, accessed 8 May 2008.

Fishing activity, including angling from the shore and from boats, occurs all around the county’s coastline from the smaller ports, out of the estuaries and from beaches. Recreational activities such as angling and scuba diving have been popular pastimes since the Second World War and, in terms of fisheries statistics, should not be ignored, as the total take is significant. In the 1950s and 1960s the port of Looe established a position as a centre for shark angling but declined in importance owing to overfishing of the target species elsewhere in combination with the introduction of conservation policies. Commercial catches can be marketed directly to third parties (so long as the catch is recorded for the appropriate government agency) or offered for sale through an auction. New harbour construction works were undertaken in Newlyn in the early years of the twentieth century, enabling better marketing of the catch,26 and a smaller market was re-established in Looe in 1987.27 A feature of the markets in Devon and Cornwall is that not only will fish be ‘overlanded’ from the smaller ports but under some circumstances fish landed at the other auction ports (Newlyn, Looe, Plymouth and Brixham) will be transported by road to another auction. Although a south-coast motorway remains a dream the improvements made to the A30 and A38 and the construction of the M5 motorway since the 1970s have enhanced the road transport links, while the use the railways for carrying fish has been abandoned.


29.2 The crew of the Chichester Lass landing pilchards at the Custom House steps, Newlyn, in the early 1960s. Note the use of aluminium trunks. Shippams offered a premium for pilchards put into trunks as they were shaken from the nets as they were hauled. This greatly reduced damage to the fish, materially reducing any wastage during the canning process. (Tony Pawlyn collection)

Regulation and Fisheries Management

The origins of fisheries science can be traced to the middle of the nineteenth century, when marine biologists realised that, despite an increase in vessel numbers and increased efficiency due to steam power superseding sail, vessels were having to travel further to make their catch and the ‘catch per unit effort’ was declining.28 The trend was noted in both the North Sea and the Baltic. As stocks were not under real threat and relatively unexploited resources existed elsewhere around the British Isles little notice was taken, probably underpinning Huxley’s report referred to in the Introduction to this chapter. However, by 1896 the British government was sufficiently concerned about activities in the coastal fisheries of England and Wales to set up Sea Fisheries Committees, one of which was to administer the Cornish fisheries. At that time jurisdiction was limited to three nautical miles (NM) from the coast.

Owing to early scientific work into the fisheries around Denmark, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) was established in Copenhagen in 1902 supported by European Atlantic coastal states to develop fisheries research. In the UK fisheries laboratories were established in Aberdeen and Lowestoft, together with out-stations. On the purely biological front the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom built its laboratory in Plymouth (opening in 1886) and still undertakes a great deal of its research in Cornish waters.

The gathering of catch and landing statistics became far more thorough as the twentieth century progressed. It is difficult to compare the statistics for 1900 and 2000 as the recent ones are far more detailed. In the Fifteenth Report of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Fisheries in England and Wales, reflecting activity in 1900, the primary concern seems to have been the replacement of sail by steam power.29 This review mentions Plymouth, but no Cornish ports, although, interestingly, it records comment from our continental neighbours on their experience of this new technology. The landings for Plymouth and Newlyn are combined as 13,582 tons, much of which will have been pelagic species. Specific mention is made of oyster catches and, in particular, the fleets employed at Truro and Falmouth. An interesting footnote for those interested in maritime safety is that 325 fishermen from England and Wales lost their lives in that year, 153 in a single bad gale in February. While fishing remains one of the more dangerous occupations at the time of writing, as frequent tragedies around the Cornish coast remind us, the attrition rate is very much reduced.

In the statistics published by the government for the year 2000, four Cornish ports are named: Newlyn, Falmouth, Looe and Padstow. The tonnages and respective values are given in Table 29.1. By comparison Brixham had figures of 10,400 tonnes at £18.5m and Plymouth 13,600 tonnes at £8.2m. The higher tonnage but lower value in Plymouth reflects landings of mackerel into the large processing factory owned by Interfish at Cattedown Wharf.30 Oysters barely appear in the 2000 figures. The catches landed into Newlyn and Brixham have similar profiles, with the respective fleets having large numbers of beam trawlers landing high-value demersal species.

After the Second World War concerns about overfishing were raised more loudly once activity resumed. These concerns can be divided into three issues: rights of access, conservation of stocks and avoidance of conflict. By 1951 maritime boundaries were being moved further offshore, thus restricting access to vessels from the coastal state and excluding those from other flags in the name of conservation. Disputes between the UK and Norway and separately with Iceland are examples.31 Continuing international pressure led to the first Law of the Sea Conventions in 1958. These recognised the need for protected fisheries for coastal states and a Convention covering High Seas Fishery was drafted, but as no agreement could be found for a new width for Territorial Seas stalemate was reached despite a valiant attempt to broker a deal in 1960. Subsequent to the first two so-called ‘Cod Wars’ with Iceland, related rulings at the International Court of Justice and the draft solution to the 1960 impasse, many European coastal states were able to agree to the West European Fisheries Convention of 1964 that extended fishery limits out to twelve nautical miles while recognising the ‘historic rights’ of neighbouring states to fish in the zone between the six- and twelve-mile limits. One outcome of these changes was that the Cornish Sea Fisheries Committee saw their limit of jurisdiction move out to the six-mile limit, where it remains. When Britain joined the European Union the Atlantic waters of these states became a ‘European Pond’ and it was theoretically possible that member states could fish up to the beaches of Cornwall. However, through successive reviews the six- plus six-mile provision has remained. Another factor having a considerable effect on Cornish fisheries was the UK government’s anticipation (together with many others) of the provisions of the text of the UN Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 and claiming of a 200-mile Exclusive Fisheries Zone in 1976. This was well in advance of the signing Convention and many years ahead of the UK’s acceding to that Treaty in 1994. This increase put an end to the Russian and non-EU fleets fishing in UK/EU waters and when the Soviet Bloc collapsed the klondykers disappeared.

EU fisheries management has attempted to protect stocks from overfishing by allocating quotas to member states and subsequently to ‘Producer Organisations’, so that by 2000 the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation would be responsible for allocating catch quotas to individual vessels in their membership. As with almost all fisheries regulation it is designed to make activity less efficient than it could be, leading to resentment. Rumour and centuries-old prejudices, particularly when it involved their French and Spanish colleagues, found fertile ground among Cornish fishers. Similarly, the temptation to cheat when lawmakers restrict the potential to harvest more than the allocated quota is strong, resulting in continuation of overfishing and prosecution of those caught, as happened at the end of the last decade of the twentieth century.

One of the great paradoxes of the fishing industry in Cornwall, as elsewhere in the world, is that everyone is in favour of the conservation of fish stocks and the protection of endangered habitats. But when individual livelihoods are threatened agreement on remedial measures is very hard to achieve. It is to the credit of Cornish fisheries that the only closed area in England and Wales was established around Lundy and, as mentioned above, restocking of reefs with juvenile lobsters was planned as the millennium turned. Other measures protecting salmonids and bass in Cornish waters were also in place.


Cornish fisheries during the twentieth century cannot be dissociated from the experience of world fisheries, which saw a rapid expansion in landings from the 1950s into recent decades as a result of the demands of an increasing population (numerically and in wealth), the technical ability to catch more fish and improvements in preservation methods and transport, together with the ever increasing efforts of the legal and regulatory framework to maintain a fair market while protecting the environment and providing a living for practitioners. Some trends have gone in the other direction or at least maintained a status quo, such as the mackerel hand-line fishery, the Falmouth oyster fishery, which has remained under sail, and the growth of aquaculture and ranching.

Cornish fisheries have produced good-quality demersal fish (especially flatfish) throughout the century, but catching methods have become far more efficient with the introduction of beam trawling. Pelagic fisheries have declined, only mackerel being taken off the Cornish coast in any quantity but largely by vessels registered outside the county, and the drift net fishery that existed until the middle of the century has been totally superseded. Shellfish fisheries have seen a decline in the importance of oysters, but crabs and lobsters have continued to register as important landings. The culture of mussels, oysters and other molluscs has progressed where water conditions allowed.

Notes and References

1 Quoted in D.H. Cushing, The Provident Sea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 117.

2 The Times, 15 September 2007; Callum Roberts, The Unnatural History of the Sea: The Past and Future of Humanity and Fishing (Washington DC: Island Press, 2007).

3 A technique widely used by economists to indicate the ratio between those directly employed in an industry to those whose livelihood is gained from supporting that industry. In the fishing industry these would be those engaged in shore based employment such as port workers, processors, chandlers, net makers, shipyard workers and repair trades.

4 PESCA was an EU funded project designed to provide among other things retraining and new employment opportunities for fishers threatened with redundancy due to fleet reduction. A brief review of the aims and results of PESCA are to be found in the report of the 4th Annual PESCA Thematic Conference, 2001: [accessed 1 May 2008].

5 J. Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict: The Story of Newlyn (Newton Abbot: Tops’l Books/David & Charles, 1988).

6 A general review of English fisheries can be found in D.J. Starkey, C. Reid and N. Ashcroft (eds), England’s Sea Fisheries: the Commercial Fisheries of England and Wales since 1300 (London: Chatham, 2000).

7 A.J. Southward, G.T. Boalch and L. Maddock, ‘Fluctuations in the Herring and Pilchard Fisheries of Devon and Cornwall Linked to Change of Climate since the Sixteenth Century’, Journal of the Marine Biological Association 68 (1988) pp. 423–45.

8 ‘Introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment (including estuaries) resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources, hazard to human health, hindrance to marine activities including fishing, impairment of quality for use of seawater and reduction of amenities.’ Quoted in M. Hardy, ‘Definition and Forms of Marine Pollution’, in S.H. Lay, R.R. Churchill, M.H. Nordquist (eds), New Directions in the Law of the Sea, Vol. 3 (New York: Oceana Publications, 1973), p. 73.

9 Summarised in R.R. Churchill and A.V. Lowe, The Law of the Sea (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988, 2nd edn), pp. 242–45.

10 General review and specific mention of damage by fishing gear can be found in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans – Vol V: Maritime Species and Habitats, 1999, p. 214. [accessed 5 May 2008].

11 A search by the UK Hydrographic Office in March 2008 indicated that within the English Channel and Celtic seas in an area bounded by the median lines with France and the Irish Republic there are 398 charted wrecks and 105 uncharted. The vast majority of these wrecks will be those sunk during the twentieth century (pers comm, UKHO March 2008).

12 Wreck nets are laid in fleets alongside and sometimes over a wreck. They can only be used at times of low tidal stream movement to avoid the net being laid to the horizontal or becoming entangled with protruding debris. The advent of cheap nets constructed out of synthetic twines in the 1960s enabled the expansion of this method from that used over inshore reefs with earlier set nets.

13 Southward, et al, ‘Fluctuations in the Herring and Pilchard Fisheries’.

14 Lecture given to South West Company of Mariners, by Mr Phil Dyke of the National Trust entitled ‘The Effect of Climate Change on the Coast’, May 2007.

15 Ibid.

16 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 100.

17 Demersal fish are those that live on or near the sea bottom.

18 A visit to their web site ( gives full details including releases to date.

19 For details of these threats and associated research see UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans Vol V: Maritime species and habitats.

20 This observation is based on the author’s experience.

21 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 91.

22 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 98.

23 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 111

24 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 113.

25 P.F. Willerton, Lecture to Chartered Institute of Transport at County Hall, Truro, 1991.

26 Corin, Fishermen’s Conflict, p. 109.

27 The market was rebuilt and opened in September 1987. [accessed 5 May 2008].

28 See P.P.C. Hoek, ‘Migration and Overfishing’ (an excerpt from his paper published in 1905) in E.M. Thomasson, Study of the Sea (Farnham: Fishing News Books, 1981), p. 12.

29 Fifteenth Annual Report of the Inspectors of Fisheries of England and Wales, [accessed 1 May 2008].

30 UK Sea Fisheries Statistics, 1999 and 2000, [accessed 1 May 2008].

31 H. Jónsson, Friends in Conflict: The Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars and the Law of the Sea (London: C. Hurst & Co., 1982), p. 56.

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