St Andrew’s Day marks the start of the winter season in Scotland, and at this time our thoughts lie with the estimated 12,000 fishermen who work tirelessly around the clock to provide us with our favourite nutritious dish.
Fishing is Britain’s most dangerous peacetime occupation, and according to the Fishing Industry Safety Group, those in the job are 115 times more likely to be injured than workers in any other industry. Many work 15-20 hour shifts with no benefits or life insurance.
In fact, this year 16 fishermen have died - one of the occupation's highest recorded number of fatalities.
As St. Andrew also happens to be the patron saint of fishing, we thought we’d take the opportunity to raise awareness about the great work our chosen charity The Fishermen’s Mission (FM) is doing behind the scenes to help these local heroes land their catch safely on a daily basis.
Founded in 1881, The Fishermen’s Mission is responsible for providing distressed fishermen with refuge, food, showers, dry clothing and transportation back home to name just a few of its complimentary services.
The UK-wide organisation, which is open to all fishermen (from around Britain and overseas) receives no government funding and relies solely on volunteers and donations from local fundraising and from the fishermen themselves.
Fishbox owner and ex-fisherman Magnus knows how rough the elements can be and is no stranger to being caught in the eye of the storm himself whilst on the job.
While out on a single-handed creel boat one afternoon on the Moray Firth, Magnus found himself in the midst of a force-nine gale.
“For fishermen, the mission is their main emergency service second only to the coast guard. When things go wrong and when you feel helpless, the fact that you have someone to phone any day and during any time, makes you feel secure.They’re like a guardian and extended family.”
A superintendent from the Mission emphasises the importance that the 24/7 facilities offer the fishermen, and says it’s very much a ‘home away from home’ for them.
The mission also provides pastoral counselling to distressed fishermen, support to bereaved families and can speak at funerals.
“Even if they don’t have a connection to the church, fishing families will often turn to the mission when a loved one passes,” said FM superintendent. “It’s a difficult job, but very rewarding.”
Since fishing life is so different from any other occupation, it can be hard for fishermen to move back into mainstream work if they face injury or obligatory retirement. As most fishermen have no pension, they are often forced to retire into poverty.
The mission provides a wide range of welfare services to help alleviate the struggling. Some of these include help with medical care, debt and relationship counselling and addiction support.