Peter Dench’s five-day North Sea voyage aboard The Allegiance

Last of the North Sea Trawlermen

The future has since become extremely bleak for English trawlermen; huge areas of the North Sea have been declared off-limits and fishing quotas have been slashed in an attempt to rescue dwindling North Sea stocks from the point of extinction. These measures have jeopardised the jobs of those in the industry and put dependent towns, like Scarborough, on the brink of ruin.

“Working on a trawler is tough,” says photojournalist Peter Dench, who spent five days in 1998 on board The Allegiance, a 60 foot-long trawler from Scarborough that fished the North Sea with a crew of five. “You spend weeks at sea and the income is unpredictable. Sleep is sporadic and the small bunks lie under the waterline jammed next to the engine room; it smells of fishy men. The Allegiance was the opposite of the Tardis. It looked spacious from the outside but on the inside, it was three tiny, fetid cells connected by a steel ladder – a bridge, galley and the bunks room.

“Most of the room on board was allocated for hauling in, gutting and packing the fish in ice. Being on a metal box alone on the sea can deliver a feeling of vulnerability. While steel ships like The Allegiance are harder to sink than wooden ones, if catastrophe does strike, it will sink like the lump of metal it is quickly.”


Read the full version in The Northern Correspondent #4

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