A modern coble captured by Nigel Coates
Let’s go almost as far north as we can in England, to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. There are many stories of the early saints of Holy Island, and we can come back to Cuthbert, Aidan and their companions again. But today I’m retelling a cautionary tale of the last two centuries, from Richard Perry’s 1946 book A Naturalist on Lindisfarne. It is worth the telling because we need to take care of our earth and the seas that surround it.
The morning I wrote this piece there were fishermen on the radio convinced that Brexit would lead to greater catches for themselves with the European nations excluded from their grounds.
Perry suggests this is unlikely to happen.
He tells how over-fishing at the end of the nineteenth century led to the end of the herring industry. The fishermen took to catching white fish inshore, but
‘light trawling during the war of 1914-18 brought relief to over-trawled fishing and spawning grounds and allowed the white fish to increase to their immemorial millions at a time when inshore fishermen were beginning to suffer from the effects of this over-fishing. But within a few years of the end of the war the trawler fleets were again cleaning up the inshore grounds of both lobsters and white fish; just as the drifters had destroyed the inshore herring fishing. By 1931 the catches of the ten Island cobles were only ten or twenty per cent of those taken before or after the war…
‘With the year 1945 at an end …events will no doubt conform to the post 1914-18 pattern, with seven or ten good years inshore fishing, before the trawlers have swept the grounds clean of all marketable fish.’
Let us pray for wisdom all round as Britain and Europe’s leaders negotiate every aspect of their new relationship. May God’s earth, sea and air not be forgotten! And let us pray for all fishermen and all at peril on the Sea.