Cornwall: This Fishing Life

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Cornwall: This Fishing Life

Series 1 - Episode 2



Fishing for Cornish sardines (or pilchards as they were called until being rebranded about 20 years ago) is surprisingly tricky. As skipper Will explains, “You haven’t caught them until, well, until they’re on the boat, really.” One of his crew puts it more succinctly: “They’re buggers!”

We join three boats working out of Newlyn as they go ring-netting with varying degrees of success. It’s tough work – whether the fishermen return with a full or empty hold – plus they’re worried about how Brexit will affect them because much of their catch is exported to Europe and they’re already struggling to pay their bills. Worth remembering next time you tuck into a grilled sardine.


Competition is fierce as the ring-netters of Newlyn go on the hunt for sardines. Also known as pilchards, they were once a staple of the Cornish fishing industry, caught using drift nets by the tens-of-thousands, then packed in salt and sent to Italy. But demand waned and the drift net fishery, once the mainstay of the Cornish fleet, faded away in the 1960s. In recent years, the humble pilchard has been rebranded as the Cornish sardine, and the hundreds of drift netters have been replaced by just 15 hi-tech ring-netters - and the sardine is once more a highly-prized and lucrative catch.

Cast & Crew

Director Nathan Harrison
Executive Producer Steve Robinson
Executive Producer Jamie Balment
Series Producer Luke Pavey