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THE EVILS OF TRAWL FISHING

04  April 1863

ATTEMPT TO BAN TRAWLING

By 1863 fishermen with their smacks had migrated the length of the country and had settled and prospered in Hull for over two decades having one registered fishing smack in the early 1840`s to that of 270 in 1863. There was much debate and objection to the means of using a beam trawl for the purpose of fishing, especially from the more northern ports such as Hartlepool. Inshore line fishermen had argued and had on occasions attacked and prevented the fishing smacks from all ports landing and selling their catches. Not only did the amount of fish landed at the northern ports  by the trawling smacks place the livlihood of the local fishermen in jeopardy, but there was great concern that the trawling method destroyed everything in it`s path taking young small fish and destroying the spawn. Some even in these early years believed that the fish stocks where not only diminishing but would be depleted totally. The attempt to ban trawling of this nature was taken to parliment but rejected.

Hull Times 04 Apr 1863 P02

Trawl Fishing

Meeting of Smack Owners in Hull

On Tuesday evening a meeting of fishing smack owners was held at the Manor House Tavern for the purpose of taking into consideration the subject of trawl fishing - a bill being about to be introduced into parliament to abolish trawling or to make some great alteration to the present system. About 30 smack owners attended. Mr W. J Markcrow was called to the chair.

The Chairman opened the proceedings with the following remarks, he said the meeting would be aware that the Northumberland and Durham gentlemen were about to partition parliament to abolish trawling or to make great alteration in it. He had no doubt many of them practical men, would be able to show that night that there was no real cause for any alteration to take place, it appeared that trawling had been denounced as injurious to the small fish and to the brood; he considered that trawlers did not destroy the brood of fish, but assisted the fishing rather than destroyed it. As with a farmer the better he tills his land the better crops he will have, so it is with trawling. It is a known fact that certain parts of the sea produce more shell fish and other food which by trawling is turned up and made available for the fish; but if the ground is left alone it fills up with rubbish. thus by the ground been harrowed up, there is a better chance of the fish to feed. At certain times of the year they found a quality of fish at particular spots and at other times they were gone. Fishermen sometimes thought they had caught all but it was not so, the fish had simply moved to other spots. The Northumberland and Durham gentlemen complained of them having destroyed the spawn but he did not believe that the fish spawned on this coast at all. He believed that cod, ling, haddock and such like fish spawned more to the northward, It is quite certain that soles go into rough ground to spawn and that they go northward and eastward. he could not see that they hindered the fish by catching them with the trawl. It was true that a fisherman would get other kinds of fish besides that for which he was looking; it was the same with the Paull Shrimpers He ( The Chairman ) believed that the greatest destruction was caused by the stow boat and sprat fishing. If Government were to look into the matter, they would find that more injury was done in this way than by trawling [Hear,] The Chairman in conclusion invited those present to express their views on the subject in order that the public might be made acquainted with the facts of the case.

Mr Richard Thomas Vivian then addressed the meeting he said that for some time past they had heared that a regular organised plan was in operation for it`s object the doing away with the very important kind of fishing that they were engaged in namely, trawling, When the first rumours of this absurd attempt reached them they thought it quite unnecessary to take any steps to refute the gross misrepresentations that their opponents made of the trawling buisness, but when they considered how very little was known of the buisness except by those engaged in it, they deemed it advisable to take some steps to enlighten the public generally on the subject. Most of the arcticles written by the promoters of the present opposition, that he had seen, were vague and misty; but one production was explicit enough in all conscience, he alluded to a large sheet beaded " The iniquitous system of trawl fishing," The writer states that ` the trawlers have swept the whole of the English Channel, devastating all the fishing grounds they have passed over and have now come down on the north coast to carry out the same nefarious practises; and continues he ` if a stop be put to the abominable system of trawling in a few years the highly productive coast fisheries will be entirely ruined. Mr Vivian asked the meeting to see how likely this alarming prophecy was to be fulfilled. At Brixham in Devonshire the birthplace of trawling , the same system was practised centuries ago, of course supposing it to be as destructive as stated, it must have long since exhausted all the fishing grounds available to the Brixham trawlers, and the very system itself be almost forgotten, while the fishermen must have either found other means of obtaining a livelihood or have set out to despoil and ruin other grounds. Now, what was the fact ? At Brixham there were now more vessels and men employed in trawling than ever there were before - the vessels were much larger - the nets and appliances were adapted for catching greater quantities - yet these men continue trawling on the very same grounds their forefathers did before them, fishing during the night and bringing their produce of their labours to market the next morning. In fact all round the Island where trawling had been pursued in suitable grounds it was still in use, and both vessels and men were increasing, They feared no diminution of the fish but had more to dread from an undue number of vessels been engaged in the buisness, which had been the case in some places in consequence of incorrect ideas been formed of the profit of the buisness and the persons, eager to enter into what was thought by them to be a more than ordinarily lucrative buisness, when told that it was not nearly so profitable as they supposed and that like all other trades , to ensure success, it required a thorough knowledge of the working of it, and great perseverance and attention, thought their informants were hiding the truth from them for their own selfish ends, Such is the abundance of fish , that when too many vessels are engaged to the buisness at one time, at favourable seasons such quantities are obtained that the market is so low as to not to renumerate the catchers. Mr Vivian then alluded to the great fecundity ( fertilization ) of fish, which he said is so great that as long as the world should last there will be an abundant supply of all kinds of fish, in spite of both hook and trawl fishing. The same writer stated that two-thirds of the fish brought in by trawling is so mangled that it is useless for food and is sold for manure. at 3s per bushel. Who had supplied the author with this startling piece of intelligence he did not know, but he could fearlessly state that, during the 15 yrs he had been a fish salesman, he had neither sold, nor known any other person to sell, one bushell of fishfor manure in consequence of been unfit for food by injuries inflicted by the trawl, In his ( Mr Vivians ) opinion when the legislature investigates the subject it will be more inclined to foster and protect the highly important trawl fisheries of Great Britain, which are every day the means of bringing to shore tons of delicious and cheap fish, many kinds of which could only be obtained by trawling ( Soles , perhaps the most generally esteemed fish brought to the shore being among the number ), rather than in any way injure it to suit the protectionist view of a class of fishermen who by themselves would supply the country with fish about as well as it would be supplied with flour if all the mills were stopped and it was only to be obtained by beating the corn on a stone as it was done in primative ages [ Loud Cheers, ]

Mr Henry Towse said that where one pair of soles was caught 16 years ago five pairs were caught now, and where at the former period there was one fishing smack employed, there were 10 now, ( My note why 30 smack owners at meeting ? ) At times the Durham and Nothumberland men went out in the morning and managed to get back in the evening , and because they could not remain on the fishing grounds they are like the dog in the manger, they don`t want others to do what they don`t do themselves, But if they dont keep pace with the times, that was no reason why others should not. If the proposed bill was passed, however, what was to be done with the smacks and the men employed in trawling?. The smacks were not fit for any other buisness; they were built expressly for trawling, and Hull might boast of having a fine a class of smack as any place in the world could show. If trawling was abolished, a large number of men - who could not take up any other kind of employment - would be thrown on the world like the Lancashire Operatives. If Northumberland and Durham men would do away with their small craft and get large ones it would be much more to their credit. [ Cheers] ( Webmasters Note: I believe Mr Towse is stating the numbers for the Durham and Northumberland smacks ).

Mr Jas Westcott jun said that so along as 18 years ago the Hartlepool and Durham people were at variance with them ( the trawlers ). he had been stoned off Hartlepool beach had his boat upset, and threatened with further proceedings for taking fresh fish on shore, it was well known. that through their smacks large quantities of fish were taken which could not be got but by trawling, Mr Westcott then alluded to the valuable services rendered at sea to the north men by the trawlers, in cases of shipwreck and distress, and charged them with ingratitude. Mr Henry Nicholls said they had no idea of catching spawn, he ventured to say that the north men were quite without the means of proving their assertions in this respect. He first heard the cry about catching spawn about four or five years ago, Last summer he was at Hartlepool and the pernicious spirit now so strongly shown began to exhibit itself very much, and he and those who were with him had to get the protection of the police.He had lokked deeply into the question, and saw that the trawl - instead of doing harm - did a considerable amount of good, the ground used to be encumbered with stones, rubbish, which did an injury to the fisheries but these were removed by the trawl, and the ground now produces a better kind of fish and in larger quantities. According to the assertions of the Hartlepool ( breed ? ) the trawlers were going further north, and exceeding their sphere of operations; because they had exhausted the fishing grounds to the south and at this rate the destruction was going on; the whole sea would be cleared in twelve months, [ Laughter ] He was sure that opposition from the north was simply the cosequence of jealousy, [ Hear ]. Mr J Westcott jnr, rose again to mention an incident which showed the feelings of animosity which actuated the Hartlepool people. Those people raised the question of the right of the trawlers to sell fish without an auctioneers licence, He ( Mr Westcott ) wastold one day by them that if he sold, he would be taken in, in consequence of this, he and another were afraid to sell their fish but they consulted the mayor, and by him were refered to the leading solicitor in Hartlepool, whi informed them that, the fish been their own, they could sell it, and they did do so. They had before to take their fish on board again and take it to Sunderland, where the people, received them with cheers, for they had not been in the habit of getting soles.

The Chairman here refered to the Ramsgate to show that the quantity of fish had not been decreased by this use of the trawl, Mr Jos Fellows stated that he had fifteen years experience and he did not think there was any fear of the fisheries being injured by trawling, soles spawned in foul ground, so that there was no fear of getting at the spawn, After some further remarks from the Chairman and Mr Vivian the meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to the former.