From the book "Filey - a Yorkshire fishing town" by Irene E Allen and Andrew A Todd
Most modern fishing is based on the trawling principle, which dates from the 1830's. Prior to that, two techniques were prevalent. Lines were used to catch demersal fish like cod, which live near the sea bed; and drift or gill nets were used for pelagic fish like herring, which swim near the surface. As we have seen, Filey fishermen continued to use the two traditional techniques long after the 1830's. They disliked the new trawling techniques right from their origins in the 1830's, and never got seriously involved with them until after the Second World war. One reason for the opposition of Filey men to the trawlers was simple conservatism - dislike of change. Also, they shared with all the fishermen the fear that their traditional livelihoods would be destroyed by the introduction of the new fishing methods. It is said that the first trawler to put into Aberdeen was stoned out of the harbour by hostile fishermen! There was nothing revolutionary about the sailing boats that engaged in trawling - these would be single-masted cutters or two masted ketches until about 1880, when steam power was first applied to the Yorkshire coast's fisheries. The beam trawl, however, which was dragged along the sea bed was completely at variance with traditional methods.
We can gain some insight into the contemporary feelings of Filey men about the new trawling techniques. On Thursday 1st October 1863, the Government appointed Sea Fisheries Commission took evidence at Filey from the curate and eight fishermen or former fishermen. Three of these men appear on the Jenkinson family tree. Edward Scales was baptised at St Oswalds on 26th February 1818; by 1863 he had been a fisherman "20 or 30 years". He was the grandfather of Edward Scales Jenkinson(1879-1942). William Jenkinson (1786-1865) was baptised at St Oswalds on 24th September 1786; in 1863, he had been a fisherman "upwards of 70 years". Asked if if he went herring fishing now, he replied :
"No, I do not go much. I have been a week or two this last year, that is all".
He would have been 76 at the time! John Jenkinson (1791-1872) was baptised at St Oswald's on 7th August 1791; in 1863, he had been a fisherman "about 63 years". This evidence suggests that these two Jenkinsons were at sea when they were about ten years old. The testimony of another witness, William Cammish, who
"went to sea about when I was 11 years old"
corroborates this pattern.The Commissioners enquired closely about the state of offshore fishing at the time, and were particularly interested in the effect that the trawlers were having on the traditional fishermen, and on fish reserves. The evidence of the Filey men gives remarkable insight into fishing from luggers, yawls and cobles in the years up to 1863.
Trawling was condemned by all of them! It damaged the catch, and made the fish inedible. John Jenkinson(1791-1872) must have been one of the first Filey men to fish by beam trawl. He claimed to have spent a year on board a trawl-boat "about 28 years ago", sailing from Scarborough. He had presumably come around to opposing the method:
"We used to trawl for about six hours north or south, and when we took our net we had a great deal of young fish, spawn, and such like. After we had taken out of it what we required we used to take a shovel and shovel the rest overboard.
Filey men had a basic instinct for conservation of their fisheries. They were well aware, a century or more ago, of the simple truth that if you overfish a stretch of water you will destroy your own livelihood. The indiscriminate beam-trawling from Scarborough and Whitby threatened to do just that. Other small, traditional fishing communities shared the same concern. Terence Collins told us the story of "Old Titch" (Thomas Cappleman Jenkinson c1887-1963) who as a young man, was fishing off Staithes one foggy night. Finding a local boat at sea, they called to ask if there were any fish.
"None"came the reply; then as an afterthought, "Who are you?"
"Filey", they answered.
"Get your nets down, there's plenty here."
The Staithes men assumed they were talking to Scarborough or Whitby men, whom they disliked on principle because of their disregard for conserving stocks. Traditional fishermen had an eye on the future. It was a saying in Filey amongst the fishing community - "There's sons to come after, and sons after that."
The trawlers were universally blamed by Filey men for overfishing and reducing stocks. William Jenkinson(1786-1865) complained to the Sea Fisheries Commission how the Dogger bank was "falling off" as a result of the trawling.
Another reason for the dislike of the trawlers was the damage they did to the equipment of the line fishermen. Thousands of yards of lines would be set by each boat. These would lie on, or near, the sea bed, perhaps for several hours. Trawlers would often haul their beams straight across an area where these lines were, and would drag them as far away as Scarborough. William Jenkinson complained,
"When we fall among the smacks (sailing trawlers) we are afraid to set our lines, and we usually come away."
Filey men who were involved in herring fishing were just as likely to suffer loss. The law required trawl boats to keep three miles away from herring boats with drift nets, but this was sometimes ignored.
"Four years since they came right down over out nets, and took all the buoys from them, and destroyed them altogether."
Since it was usual to fish for herring at night, it was impossible to spot the names or numbers of the offending craft[evidence of Edward Scales]. More recently, the traditional fishermen may have got their own back. Some of the old gas cookers and other assorted scrap iron that befoul the trawls may not always have got to the sea bed by accident!
These losses were serious. In the Filey Post it was reported that Captain Castle Jenkinson(1824-82) had lost 75 herring nets, and other gear from his yawl, the "Admiral Hope". All this would have cost near Â£300 to replace[Filey Post 2nd November 1867]. In this case, it seems that Castle had suffered the effects of bad weather, but the event indicates just how vulnerable a fishermen's equipment could be, when he was out at sea.