The Fishermans Apprentice

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He's no Michael Crick or Jeremy Paxman, however, and his laidback style has left questions unanswered: while there were hints in the first episode that the locals might be under pressure from second-homers, the only local interviewed said they welcomed the incomers' new viewpoints. It seemed as though the series might be the TV equivalent of watching nets drying, in the vein of An Island Parish — a portrait of a dying way of life.

The programme appears to have been saved, however, by last week's second episode, which gave a much harsher view of the economics of the small-boat industry. Bear in mind that it's easy for an inexperienced crab fisherman to earn almost nothing. After several days of poor catches and bad weather, the relief on Halls's face when he manages to hit his target one day looked genuine; when he went out as a crew member on a bigger boat but ended up sick there was little sympathy from the crew: "Try not to spew over the fish" said the captain.

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The voiceover suggesting that Halls's "mission" was in jeopardy — as in many programmes of this type — rather over-egged the situation. But there was much else of interest here. What was most fascinating was the fishermen's reasons for keeping fishing. Others cited the "freedom", that you're "your own man", that you can "be yourself" at sea. It's certainly not for the money.

The Fisherman's Apprentice

When the producers let the fishermen themselves speak, the reality of their situation hit home. Most of the inshore fishermen are over 40 and younger crew are often forced to go elsewhere to earn enough money to buy a house or boat.

Others simply don't see the appeal of the job; "It's not everybody's cup of tea," one skipper admitted. Many need to net other sources of income, by targeting different species of fish or crab, or by taking second jobs. Legge, for example, makes willow lobster pots and paints. And of the 6, small inshore boats currently operating, are likely to go out of business each year; the fleet has declined by a third in 50 years.

Government reforms are unlikely to help — rather they could force small boat fishermen to target certain fish types, preventing them from diversifying.

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