As part of the school’s youth scheme the older children are given time to learn first-hand about the different jobs on the island. One of the school children went out to sea for the day with the fishermen. Using nets and traps they fished for crayfish. Find out more in this first-hand account written by one of the school children.

The gong sounded early in the morning announcing that the weather was good for fishing. I could hear the fisherman’s gumboots hitting the concrete streets as they headed down to the beach with their bundles of food and fishing gear.

Crane lowers fishing boat (c) Shannon
Crane lowering the fishing boat

Deploying the boats

The boats were brought to the crane on a trolley pulled by a tractor. The boats were then hooked up by a sling and lifted into the water by the crane. The crane squeaked as it dropped the boats into the water. Then men got into the boats and headed out with their fishing gear. For safety a minimum of two people work per boat, however because I was on my youth scheme I was allowed to sit in the boat for the day.

Did you know we have only 12 fishing boats all together, not including the safety boat the Sea Spray (which is moving around checking no one is in trouble).

Nets and traps to catch crayfish

The two fishermen decided on where they wanted to fish and headed to their spot. The noisy boat engines started, and the smell of engine fumes was overpowering at first but as we got moving the salty sea water smelt much better! When we arrived at our destination the 32 nets were submerged into the water in different positions along with the 16 traps. The traps made a satisfying splash sound as they landed in the water. The birds came close to the boat hoping to steal some of the bait or the catch! Then we settled down once the traps has been set and had something to eat out of our backpacks.

Sorting the catch

Then we went to pick up the first round of nets and traps. I listened to the winch hauling up the traps and I could hear the fish flapping as they were placed into the trays. They were full of mainly crayfish and some octopus (known locally as catfish) and five fingers (a local). The five fingers were placed back into the water. The bait is tied on ready for the second round. The bait is quite stinky, not great when you’re feeling a little seasick! Once this process is done the men sorted their crayfish and made sure there were no undersized or berried crayfish (females with eggs) if so, they were chucked back into the water. The others are placed into 40kg trays ready for the Sea Spray vessel to pick up and take back to the harbour to being processed. Then we repeated this fishing process three or four more times.

Returning to the harbour

At the third or fourth catch the fishermen picked up all their nets and traps and sorted everything out including their catch before heading back to the harbour. All boats must be seen outside of the harbour between the times 5.30pm and 6.00pm for safety reasons. Once all boats are in the harbour the Sea Spray comes in.

The boat’s trays (catches) were lifted in slings, weighed and then taken to the factory to be processed.

Meanwhile the boat is lifted and taken onto the trolley to its position. One man stays in a boat to sort the fishing gear and check it while the other prepares the bait ready for the next fishing day.

My day fishing

What I enjoyed about my fishing day was seeing around the island and how the fisherman operated their gear.

I was seasick so didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. Despite begin seasick I learnt how the men set the gear, haul it, sort and measured the crayfish for undersized.

Fishing is important because it is our main income for the island and is part of our livelihood.

Watch the video made by Tristan school leaver as they share their expereince fishing for the first time on Tristan da Cunha.

Rock lobster (c) Sue Scott
Rock lobster (c) Sue Scott

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