Saturday, 3 August 2013

Fishing and finance

I'm currently working on a paper about the finances of fishing. In the time I've been studying the UK fishing industry, I've been shocked by the huge outlays of money fishers have to make just to do their job. This includes large sums spent on vessels (purchase and upkeep), licences, gear and fuel.

The topic of my PhD is the strengths and weaknesses of the UK quota management system, and in this paper I am concerned about the extent to which government management makes fishing even more expensive, and even more risky, for those in the industry.

This is because under quota management, not only do fishers have to make the huge investments listed above, they now also have to invest significant sums in buying or leasing quota (quota is the 'right' to fish). This is another substantial outlay for fishers, and makes fishing an even more expensive business.

On top of this, the changes in quota every year mean fishers have no idea how much fish they will be allowed to catch in the future, so potential returns are unstable.

This instability is a particular concern if (like most people investing large amounts in a business or home) fishers have had to rely on bank loans or mortgages to buy vessels, gear, licences or quota.

As money is a very personal subject, I'm trying a new research method. I'm asking people to share their opinions or experiences anonymously through email, at my university address: I've also turned on comments for this post, so you can comment directly here if that is easier. The comments will not be published (unless you want them to be - let me know within the comment if that is the case, and they will be published).

I'd love to hear about:

- how you feel about buying/leasing quota
- if you worry about huge drops in quota year-on-year, and what this might mean for paying your mortgage
- costs for young people entering the industry
- have you been forced to use a smaller crew by the costs of fishing? What does this mean for health and safety?
- has the recent government quota reallocation made your position more insecure (over 10) or improved it (under 10)?
- Differences in government support in Scotland, England, Shetland, etc
- Do you know anyone who has been forced out of fishing by huge costs, or had their boat/licence/quota repossessed by the bank?
- How do you think the government could better react to these financial pressures?

So, if you are a fisherman, or know any fishers, and have experience with, a story about, or an opinion on the financing of fishing, please get in touch! I'm very grateful for all contributions.

Email me at

Friday, 2 August 2013

Low Acre Lifestyles

I'm working on a paper at the moment so don't have enough time to properly write some of the blog posts I have lined up (including one about how local the fish in your seaside chippy is). Instead I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some interesting links about land and self sufficiency - more particularly, links about being self sufficient on limited landholdings. Just how much land is actually necessary to live 'the good life'?

Barbara Good: both my 1970s style icon, and my self sufficiency gardening icon.
First off, we have an input from 1864: a charming little book called Ten Acres Enough, a practical experience showing how a very small farm may be made to keep a very large family. This can be downloaded and read in full online at, which must be one of my favourite sites on the web.

Next up, another advocate of ten acres and another favourite of mine - a 2011 report by UK organisation The Ecological Land Cooperative entitled Small is Successful. This reports on the possibility of running a successful land-based business on ten acres or less - and even down to two acres in some cases. Click through to download the PDF.

And now, with even smaller acreage, we have 1907 classic Three Acres and Liberty by Bolton Hall (who in this case is a man, not a building in Yorkshire). This is provided by Australian website Soil and Health Library, which publishes loads of interesting out of print books about agriculture and self sufficiency online, and is well worth a browse.

Bolton Hall

Not Bolton Hall

Finally, we have this super-inspirational video about the US based Dervaes family, who are self sufficient off a tiny 1/10 of an acre urban garden! Have a look at their website for more fascinating information about their amazing and unusual way of life.

So there you go. How much do you need to be self sufficient? If you're as talented as the Dervaes, just 1/10 of an acre. Imagine what we could do if we used all agricultural land so fruitfully.