Trawlermen Series 1

Series: Trawlermen, Series 1

Trawlermen Series 1
Trawlermen Series 1

Trawlermen is the British version of Deadliest Catch and the related spinoff series (Tuna Wranglers and Lobster Wars among them). The series (five episodes in this season) charts the activities of several fishing trawlers working in the North Sea out of Peterhead in Scotland. Having watched a lot of Deadliest Catch, we were well equipped to marvel at the restrained, unsensational voice-over narrative. The structure of the show is far more episodic, and each episode’s subject or arc is revealed early on.

The trawlers fish mostly for prawn, dragging huge nets along the sea floor. The bycatch from prawn trawling is significant, but I confess that I didn’t find it as horrific as I’d imagined it would be. Many of the fish are gutted and boxed for market, so not a lot of it seemed to go to waste. I do suspect that the full extent of the bycatch wasn’t shown. Trawling is incredibly, unbelievably destructive – for a scientific view on that, this article is a good start.

The trawlers also catch Greenland halibut, cod, squid, and a few other kinds of fish. They however are limited by EU regulations to a fish catch (technically bycatch) amounting to no more than 65% of their total catch, because they are prawn trawlers. Excess fish must be thrown overboard, whether it’s dead or alive. One of the boats pulls up a number of huge boulders, as well as a torpedo while fishing in Norwegian waters, which the crew swiftly decide is not live (it was full of sea water). They position the torpedo on deck, pointing away from the superstructure of the boat, just in case it goes off!

The boats are high-sided with deep holds in which there is a conveyor belt for sorting the catch. The smaller fish are gutted using a machine, while the larger ones are done by hand. Everything is flash-frozen in boxes, ready for market. The work on deck is dangerous as there are many moving parts, massive nets, and ropes all over the place. The crew are mostly quite reserved (with one or two camera-loving exceptions!) and speak in broad Scottish accents which – the producers of the series deem – occasionally require subtitles.

This isn’t a glamorous or easy job, and the conditions in the North Sea are rough and very cold. I didn’t find this at all to be a rehash of things I’ve seen in other fishing shows; it was fascinating to see how a trawler works, having seen crab fishing, lobster fishing, and tuna fishing. If the voice of Armageddon style presentation of most Discovery Channel productions annoys you, try this very civilised BBC production.

The DVD box set is available here or here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.