Meet the Rye fishing family helping keep our seas clean

Just some of the rubbish pulled from the sea
Just some of the rubbish pulled from the sea

A fishing family in Rye Harbour are taking part in an initiative to help keep our seas clean from litter and plastic.

As part of Sussex Wildlife Trust’s National Marine Week (July 27 to August 4), the trust’s Emma Chaplin interviewed John Botterell, of Botterells Fresh Fish on Harbour Road, to discuss his work and the local initiative to collect litter caught in their nets and dispose of it safely.

Out at sea

Out at sea

John said: “I wanted to be a marine biologist, but ended up joining the Dutch merchant navy, where I trained as a diver.

“My father had a boat in Rye in the 1950s and I’ve lived here since the 70s. I used to build boats, and founded Botterells in 1976. The fishermen would come back with a catch that needed selling. I had contacts in London, so I’d take their catch and sell it in return for doing some work on the boat I was building for them. We had a barter system back then. It was when there was an oil crisis and things were tough.

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“I’m mostly retired. My two sons George and Jasper do most of the work now. George does the fishing and filleting. He takes the boat out of Rye Harbour along the East Sussex/Kent coastline. Jasper, a former boat builder, sells the catch and runs a Farmers’ Market stall, five or six every week. These are our main retail outlet. It’s not a shop here, we’re a workshop that customers ‘find’, but having it open to the public means that people can see an interesting side of fishing.”

When asked how he felt about the fishing industry, John replied: “There are those that see the fishing community as an adversary rather than as a companion. They don’t see us as the guardians that we are. Unfortunately, it can be true that fishing community is the least able to communicate things clearly. What we can do for society is underestimated therefore. We have a fierce interest in keeping the future of fishing sustainable. It is not in our interest to destroy our own living, as well as that of our children and grandchildren. What we want is for others to work with us. Communication is key.”

The Botterells and other local fishermen all do their bit to keep the seas clean by catching rubbish in their nets and disposing of it properly.

John added: “This was an initiative that came from the local fishing community. It makes the sea cleaner and we don’t want to catch it again the next day. We used to find wooden crates and canvas bags. Now, humans create millions of tons of plastic without being aware of the impact of this on the future. People also expect others to clear up after them, and Rye Harbour is very windy, so we end up with a lot of plastic waste in the sea.”

Visit https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/news/national-marine-week-2019 for more details.