The real cost of fish

With National Fish & Chip Day fast approaching and many shops using the event to fundraise on behalf of the Fishermen’s Mission, the charity's partnerships manager Dean Lawrence explains exactly what it does and how it helps the industry

Can you explain exactly what the Fishermen’s Mission does?

The basic outline of the Fishermen’s Mission is to provide national support in the forms of welfare, emergency and safety, to both active and retired fishermen. We provide 24/7 emergency response every day of the year. We are constantly striving to make situation and life changing outcomes for our beneficiaries, we work with industry, government and other agencies to deliver better safety and living conditions for fishermen. In fact, in 2016 we worked on a project which ensured all fishermen were equipped with personal flotation devices. In addition, we are always looking for ways to deliver effective relief from deprivation especially loneliness. The other aspect of our work is delivering life changing practical and pastoral support, at one end of the scale this can be providing emergency financial assistance to a family following an injury, while at the other it can mean painstaking work to provide for the long-term stability and care for a bereaved widow and her family. 

How is the Fishermen's Mission structured?

Our head office is based in Hampshire where we have a handful of people working but most of the Fishermen’s Mission family are spread around the UK Coastline operating out of ports where they are best positioned for the outreach work needed by our beneficiaries.

What is your role within the Fishermen’s Mission?

As partnerships manager it is my role to develop the relationships we have with our industry and corporate supporters while developing new partnerships and creating better awareness of the charity and the end beneficiaries. 

What numbers are the charity seeing in terms casualties and injuries?

People are always astonished when statistics are discussed because in the large, people just have no idea how dangerous fishing is. When the average customer buys their fish from the supermarket fish counter or their Friday fish and chips they don’t realise that fishing is in fact the most dangerous peace time occupation and that fishermen working in the industry stand a 1 in 14 chance of dying while at work. On average one fisherman is killed every six weeks, one injury is reported every 7 days and one fishing vessel is lost every 20 days, in 2017 the fishing industry lost the lives of 11 active fishermen, now that is the real price of fish.

Where does the charity funding come from?

The Fishermen’s Mission doesn’t receive any government or lottery funding, we receive several legacies each year but rely heavily on the donations given to us by our fantastic supporters. As we are not a large high street charity we really have to fight for every penny we get and are very proud that 88p from each pound generated is used to support our beneficiaries.

Can you give some examples of those that have benefited from the funds raised and the work you carry out?

Yes, certainly. The scope of people benefiting and the ways in which we help is vast. For example, we recently helped a Sri Lanken fisherman who was a crew member for a Scottish fishing team. He crushed his hand in an accident at sea and had several fingers amputated, loosing the use of his hand. It’s unlikely he will be able to fish again so it is now our role to reassure and help him prepare for the future. We also helped a 71-year-old retired fisherman who was left traumatised after a robbery took place in his home, and we also provided a mobility scooter and assisted with an outreach programme to a retired fisherman who was rapidly losing his independence through ill health and disability. Quite often we help the families of fishermen too, for example, we recently paid for a child whose family had limited resources to attend a school trip.

Are there any projects the Fishermen’s Mission is currently working on?

There is always some kind of incentive we are working on to try and improve the lives of our beneficiaries I guess the aim would be to improve the fishing industry to such a standard that the Fishermen’s Mission is no longer needed, however that is a long way off.  We are currently working on a 5-10-year project in partnership with local occupational healthcare teams around the country, which will enable us to take portside health checks to fishermen. Due to the nature of fishing, fishermen don’t have the time to make a doctor’s appointment even if they do, if the weather is suitable they will need to go to sea to work instead of attending the appointment. This means fishermen often neglect their health which in time not only impacts their ability to work and earn an income but can also impact on their family’s wellbeing. By taking the health checks direct to the ports we can carry out routine lifestyle and health checks such as diet, exercise, alcohol, blood pressure and cholesterol which will enable us to support the fishermen to make lifestyle choices which could have a significant impact on the quality and longevity of their lives.

How is the support from the fish and chip industry?

Just amazing! I was lucky enough to represent the Fishermen’s Mission at the National Fish and Chip awards in January and I have to say that the genuine support show by the industry is very humbling. We benefit from your industry fundraising in so many ways from Albert collection boxes on the counter to donations from speciality dishes. We have even had people cycling miles to help raise money. The country's fish and chip shops will go to many amazing lengths to help raise funds and awareness for us and we are incredibly fortunate to have them as partners. And of course, National Fish & Chip Day, this year being held on Friday 1st June also raises money for us too.

Dean can be contacted on or via twitter at @deanfishmish

Read our latest feature on how you can get involved in National Fish Chip Day 2018 by clicking here