How to be an European Fisherman


Fish Processors in Vigo, Spain

Earlier this year, I received and email from a freelance producer in the UK asking if I was interested in a long term photo project documenting the state of the commercial fishing industry in the European Union. The job was for a coalition of sustainable fishing advocates, commercial fishing groups, and environmental organizations called Ocean2012 that are working together to reform the currently messy Common Fisheries Policy in the European Union. It was a pretty mind blowing request. I'd decided long ago that photographing the commercial fishing lifestyle around the world would be my life's work. Not my only work, but definitely a subject matter that I'd like to revisit annually in some form throughout life. Needless to say, it was the perfect match. I still can't believe my luck.

Dutch Owned Beam Trawler in the North Sea

The original plan was for me to take photographs that focus on one large and one small port in each of four countries around Europe, covering the major fishing ports and regions. I would photograph everything related to fishing including the fishermen, their families, communities, processors, shipyards, netmakers, and everyone that would be affected by changes in common fisheries policy management in Europe. My intentions were simple: Create a broad image library of the current state of the commercial fishing industry in Europe (and have a lot of fun doing it).


Sardine Purse Seine Crew, Vigo, Spain

I was given a shot list, and some ideas of which ports are interesting or important to visit, but other then that, I had a huge amount of creative freedom to photograph where my leads led me and just "do my thing". The trip eventually spanned over three months across eight countries including Greece, France, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Poland, and Germany. I joined about fifteen different fishing vessels on 1-5 day trips at sea from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, the North Sea to the Baltic. The journey was an epic one.

Pair Trawling for Horse Mackerel in the Basque Country, Spain

Life as a fisherman is far more complex in Europe then what I'm used to in Alaska. There are too many countries sharing common fishing grounds... all with complex quota systems managed by the European Union. It's basically a giant mess. While many of the fishermen I met are dedicated to sustainable fishing practices that support an abundance of fish, they are subjected to quotas on individual species of fish that just happen to swim among other species of sought after fish. Therefore, its hard to target one species without accidentally filling your net with an illegal or undersized species from time to time. Those fish, the bycatch, are not allowed to be retained and therefore go back over the side, usually dead. This is one of the many problems that the industry faces today. Fisherman tend to get the blame for overfishing worldwide, but it more often the problem lies in a lack of management creativity.

Twin Rig Trawlerman, Brittany, France

Well, that's my little mini synapsis about the politics of fishing in Europe. I'm going to move on and leave politics to the "experts". Here are some pictures...

Mackerel Processors, Peterhead, Scotland

This trip was more about meeting characters in small fishing villages where tourists rarely visit and try to convincing strangers to take a random American out to sea with them. In general, everyone was really kind to me. They were often shocked that they were meeting a fisherman from Alaska (I actually live in Portland but spend a few months in AK every year). All fishermen in Europe seem to fantasize about fishing in Alaska... and all wondered why the hell I would be in Wladyslawowo, Poland (for example) in November for God's sake.

All the species in one prawn trawl haul, The North Sea, Scotland

For the rest of this blog, I'm going to keep quiet, and let you look at pictures. Maybe I'll tell some other stories from the trip in future blog posts... but for now, enjoy the pictures and if you're in Portland this month, swing by my show at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art which actually opens tonight (Dec 2, 2010). I'll also be posting additional stories from from this trip and future endeavors on my blog at

Thresher Shark, Guilvinec Market, Brittany, France

Cod Gillnetter, The Baltic Sea, Germany

Dutch Beam Trawling in the North Sea

Sardine Purse Seiners, Duoarnenez, France

Lesser Spotted Dogfish, The North Sea, Scotland

Dutch Beam Trawling, the North Sea

Dutch Beam Trawling, The North Sea

Albacore Pole Fishermen, Bermeo, Spain

Octopus pot fishing, Galicia, Spain

Prawners, Scotland

Irish Skipper

Fisherman's Mission, Peterhead, Scotland

Pair Trawling, Basque Country, Spain

Purse Seine Guardian, Bermeo, Spain

Twin Rig Trawling for Prawns and whitefish, Guilvinec, France

Giant Monkfish, Peterhead, Scotland

French Sardine Purse Seining

Prawn Trawling, Scotland

The North Sea

Horse Mackerel Assault, Purse Seining, Vigo, Spain

Basking Shark, Donegal, Ireland

French Trawlerman, Le Guilvinec

Seagull, Le Guilvinec, France

I really have no idea what's going on here.

Irish and Polish Trawlerman, Ireland

Scottish Trawlerman and Monkfish

Contents of a North Sea Beam Trawl

Self Portrait with dogfish

More pictures on my website at