Fishing Faces

Discover Our Local Fishing Industry

A network of unacknowledged people all play an important role in our commercial and recreational fishing industry, from the harbour masters and shrimp fishermen to the seafood sellers preparing prized Solway shellfish for our plate at home and in local restaurants.

Allerdale's Fishing Faces

We celebrate the men and women whose lives have a connection with fishing and the seafood industry along the coast of Allerdale, by revealing their faces and providing a peek behind the scenes. They all work tirelessly to source quality seafood or provide essential support to our fishing industry.

Brown Shrimp Story

Follow the story of the brown shrimp, from netting the catch in the Solway by Silloth shrimp fishermen, to the preparation locally at Ray’s shrimps and finally delivery to the Fairydust Emporium for you to enjoy! Brown shrimp is a delicacy like a small prawn with a distinctive flavour. Prawns are considered the poor man’s shrimp.

Danny and Tony Baxter, shrimp fishermen, Silloth

Danny and Tony Baxter can date their tradition of shrimp fishing back through nine or ten generations to at least the mid 1800s when their ancestors were blown ashore in Annan. In 1911, the family moved all their furniture in their boat to Silloth where the harbour was more accessible. The family have fished from there ever since.

The brothers’ fish for brown shrimps by net from a beam trawl, a system that avoids most bycatch. The catch is immediately cooked on the boat using a pot and burner. This keeps the shrimps as fresh as possible. You can tell if they were cooked in time as the shrimp is curled not straight! When the boat lands the shrimps are immediately processed by removing the shells, packing, sealing and freezing them into 5lb blocks. These are then sent off to be turned into potted shrimp for the domestic market.

As the Baxters say, “No better job especially when the sun shines”

Joe Ray, Ray’s Shrimps, Silloth

There used to be around 15 shrimp boats in Silloth and 12 in Annan but now only two families fish for the Solway delicacy.  Joe Ray fishes for Solway shrimps on his boat, the Jolanda. Joe’s father started the Ray’s shrimp business in the mid-1960s. He passed down the shrimp fishery to Joe along with the name of his boat, Jolanda. The first Jolanda was built in Orkney and then sailed down to Silloth by Joe’s father and uncle.  There have been a few boats since. Joe’s current boat is much newer but still has the same name.

Ray’s shrimps specialises in potted shrimp where the shrimps are shelled and then put in pots with butter and spices. The recipe for the potted shrimp was brought to the Ray’s by Nan Wilson who had worked for Youngs of Annan before that part of the factory closed. There are lots of different recipes for potted shrimp but this secret recipe has been in use for at least 80 years. The final product is sold locally from Joe’s shop and in cafes such as the Fairydust Emporium, but it is also sent all over the UK.

Eddie Studholme, RNLI Silloth

The Silloth RNLI lifeboat covers both sides of the Solway, from Maryport on the Allerdale Coast to Balcary Bay in Dumfries and Galloway.

All members of the crew are volunteers and jobs range from shore crew and press officer to tractor driver / mechanic, helmsman, boat crew and the Lifeboat Operations Manager, Eddie Studholme. Eddie first visited the lifeboat when he was still at school and was inspired to start volunteering. At the age of about 13 he was given the tasks of cleaning the boathouse, washing the lifeboat down after exercises and, most importantly, making coffee!  After concentrating on his work for a few years Eddie then came back to Silloth RNLI as boat crew. He crewed for 10 years before moving into the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager. Eddie has now been on this duty for 22 years and has given over 40 years’ service to the RNLI!

All crew members of Silloth RNLI must undertake at least 4 units of training before being allowed on the boat. The Helmsman, who is in charge of the boat, must be onboard before it can launch.  They also have to take part in extra training on top of the basic training of first aid, coastguard and helicopter exercises for lifting etc. Call outs can be for a variety of reasons such as for people cut off by the tide (mostly dog walkers), inflatable dinghies and fishermen stuck on rocks or suffering mechanical breakdown at sea.

Peter Hastings, Sea Angler, Silloth

Peter comes out to the coast from Carlisle every month with his caravan and sets up in Silloth to enjoy the sea angling.  He has been visiting Silloth to fish since he was a small boy enjoying being part of a friendly community of sea anglers.  The bad weather doesn’t even put the sea angler off as stormy weather can push the fish towards the coast, making for better catches. Peter fishes with a hook and line using soft back crab and razor shells as bait which is bought locally from The Lake District Aquarium in Maryport.  The fish caught on this coast include plaice, dab, skate and thornback rays.

The Solway Firth is one of the best sea angling locations in the UK.  Large tides and complex currents help supply plentiful nutrients, which in turn support a rich diversity of marine life.  The warm waters of the Gulf Stream attract most of the fish species found in British waters.  Up to fifty species may be caught from a boat and to catch nine different species in a day from the shore is quite possible.  The opportunity for such a catch along with some of the finest tope, ray and pollock fishing in Britain make the area a popular angling destination.

Tim Riley, Harbour Master, Short Sea Pilot and Port Facility Security Officer, Silloth

Tim started his seafaring life by working with Mobil Oil as an apprentice before working his way up to become a staff captain. He has worked with several big shipping companies including P&O Cruises, Holland America Lines, Norfolk Line Ferries (now DFDS) and Maersk, spending 37 years at sea. Throughout this time, he worked on a wide range of boats including container ships, nuclear fuel carriers, ferries, car carriers and cruise ships. As well as captaining he has overseen the building of container ships and worked as a Health and Safety manager in Southampton.

Tim retired from life at sea but then was persuaded to work for Associated British Ports (ABPorts). He visited Silloth in 2017 and decided he liked it so much he took the job of Harbour Master at Silloth. He bought a farmhouse locally and has settled into Cumbrian rural life.

Ashraf Hossein, Deputy Harbour Master, Short Sea Pilot, Silloth

Ashraf is originally from Bangladesh but came to the UK to study marine shipping. After passing his 2nd mate exam he moved to Hong Kong to work on large container/bulk/car ships, working up to become Chief Mate. He came back to the UK to get his Master Mariner certificate and worked in coastal shipping as Ship’s Captain on the Isle of Wight before moving to Seaham on the Durham coast in 2008 as a Deputy Harbour Master and Pilot. He stayed there until 2015 and then joined Associated British Portsat Silloth in Jan 2019. Although his family have settled in South Shields, Ash stays in Silloth when working and enjoys the area and the friendly local people. Both Tim and Ashraf pilot ships from Workington to negotiate the tricky route between Workington and Silloth. Ashraf also covers as Short Sea Pilot in Barrow and Ayr, both ABPort harbours.

Several fishing boats land their catch at Silloth Harbour. In winter, king scallops are landed, usually at night, and mostly go down to London and onto Europe. The shrimp fishers, Danny Baxter and Joe Ray land their shrimps in the outer harbour, known as Marshall Dock. Other cargo ship such as those containing grain for Carrs flour mill and those bringing in agricultural products such as fertiliser offload in the inner harbour, or the New Dock.

Naomi Kay, Manager, Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

Naomi worked in museums before moving to the Solway in 2012, initially as Manager of the Heritage Lottery Funded Solway Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme. In 2016 she became Assistant Manager of the Solway Coast AONB team and subsequently AONB Manager from January 2018. She leads the AONB Staff team, working alongside local authorities, public bodies, local organisations, businesses and communities to secure appropriate and effective management of the AONB.

As Naomi says, “It’s not just the stunning views along the Solway Coast AONB which make this a special place – its uniqueness runs far deeper than that. It’s the inhabitants – whether they’re the birds, animals, insects or sea creatures – as well as the human communities. They all have a part to play in shaping, conserving and protecting the place today, and looking after it for tomorrow.” The Solway Coast AONB was designated in 1964. The area stretches from its easterly boundary at Floriston on the Border Esk to Maryport on the West Cumbrian Coast, an area of approximately 118km2.

John(s) McAvoy, Fishers, Maryport

John doesn’t come from a fishing family. His father, also John, was a coal miner but enjoyed fishing in his spare time and introduced his son to fishing. He left school to become a time served joiner, but his love of fishing led him to buy his first boat in his 20s. Since then, he’s had 9 or 10 boats, it’s easy to lose count!  Silver Fern is the current McAvoy family boat. John works in partnership with his son, another John, who is the skipper of the boat.  Granddaughters, Amy and Katie, also help by selling the fish. The girls only go on the boat during the annual Maryport Trawler Race, preferring to stick to dry land!

They mainly catch langoustine but also some other fish species including brill, turbot, sole and plaice. They will also catch shellfish including king and queen (queenies) scallops.  Most of the langoustine catch is processed in Prestwick and then sent to France and Spain. The fish would normally go to the market at Fleetwood although due to Covid-19 restrictions the boat has been selling catch at the quayside and has become very popular with local residents. John runs the Maryport Fishing Cooperative which was started in 1984 by a group of fishermen. The cooperative has been in the building by the harbour since 1997.

Mark Vollers, Lake District Coast Aquarium

When Mark left university in London, he wasn’t sure what to do next so went to Bangor, Wales, to do a post graduate qualification in agriculture. While at Bangor Mark set up an oyster farm with some others. They initially just sold oysters but soon diversified to include lobsters which were kept in holding tanks on the Menai Straits. However, they quickly realized that people were often just interested in looking at the lobsters and learning more about them rather than eating them!  This revelation led to the setting up of what became known as The Anglesey Zoo.  Ten years on and Mark was encouraged to investigate Maryport as a possible venue for an all-new aquarium which would be his sole responsibility.  He saw great potential there, sold his house and left for Maryport and has been there ever since, over 24 years!

The site of the aquarium had room for expansion and where Mark had initially planned to build a large freshwater section, he decided instead it would be good to get involved in marine conservation so built a Sea Lab with a lobster hatchery as a main exhibit.  Lobster breeding here starts in mid-Summer when licensed fishermen provide a few berried female lobsters (with eggs). The eggs hatch into larvae which are grown on in special food laden tanks of swirling water before being placed in what is called an ‘aquahive’. Within this structure the small lobsters are kept in individual cells to prevent them attacking each other and when they are big enough, after a few weeks, they are released back into the sea.

The aquarium also houses a popular Café, Gift Shop and now the Tackle Shed, a fishing tackle shop supplying fresh frozen bait, with a selection of tackle for sea and freshwater fishing. 

Pauline Gorley, Harbour Master Maryport Marina and Harbour

Pauline left school at 16 planning to join the police. While she was waiting to reach joining age, she met her future husband who was in the RAF. They got married and he whisked her away to live in Norfolk where Pauline had her two children. While the children were young, Pauline worked as a school secretary putting her financial and typing skills to good use.

Being an RAF family meant several moves around the country including to Northumberland, Doncaster and back to Norfolk. But when the next move was to Scotland, it was time for Pauline to move back home and allow two teenage children to finish school in Maryport. Pauline started work in finance with Maryport Development Ltd. That was 21 years ago!  Although most of the role was finance related, Pauline loved the marina and so when the marina manager left, she decided to go for the job and got it. She had to go on a course and then qualified as the 199th certified Marina Manager in the country.

No two days are the same, but paperwork is always present as Pauline has to oversee Port Marine Safety codes, oil spill plans and various health and safety documents.  Communication with harbour users is key in the job and the marina team are on shifts over much of the day and on call overnight. Navigation aids have to be monitored to ensure the lights are working and all boats, both recreational and fishing, will get in touch by VHF radio to say they’re coming into berth, in the marina or Queen Elizabeth Dock. Although they do sometimes forget! Waldo, Pauline’s dog and assistant at the marina, is a pedigree poodle. Pauline has got paperwork to show 5 generations of his ancestry!

John Heron, Fyne Fish Fishmongers, Seafood Deli & Sushi, Cockermouth & Cranstons

Line up in photo, left to right: Mandy Cartier – Andrea Murray (and Benjamin) – John Heron – Leonie Hardwick – Julie Denton

Fyne Fish is owned and operated by husband and wife team, John & Sharon Heron. John started his working life in nightclubs, going on to run a fruit and veg shop. When a local told them what Cockermouth needed was a fish shop, they stepped up to the challenge. John went to train at Billingsgate Fish Market in London before setting up the first Fyne Fish 10 years ago. Now, not only do they have the shop in Cockermouth but three years ago, they also took on space within Cranstons in Penrith, Carlisle, Orton Grange and Brampton to sell their produce.

The quality of the fish and seafood is recognised in the awards the team have won; the national award of Fishmonger of the Year 2018 and 2019 (there was no award in 2020 due to covid) and a regional Cumbria Life Award.

There can be 30 to 40 fish on the fish shop slab at any one time with Fyne Fish specialising in supplying local Solway seafood and shellfish. This includes lobster and crab, supplied by a Workington fisherman, along with codling, plaice, lemon sole, skate, mackerel and monkfish. They will sell whatever is in that day’s catch! They also sell Ray’s potted shrimps from Silloth and smoked salmon prepared in Grants of Maryport.

Fyne Fish do home deliveries twice weekly and were proud to have been able to support the local community during Covid. They were often a lifeline to people who were self-isolating.

Lucy Mather, My Local Catch Project Officer, Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Lucy grew up in North Cumbria and, after initially working in engineering, she joined Cumbria Wildlife Trust for the Marine Futures North West internship in 2020, which allowed her to combine her interests in renewable energy and wildlife conservation.

After her internship, Lucy jumped at the chance of staying with Cumbria Wildlife Trust as Project Officer for their new sustainable fishing project “My Local Catch”. This is a 2½ year project supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aims to promote Cumbria’s sustainable seafood as way to both protect marine wildlife and support the local economy.

Lucy will work with Solway fishermen to promote low-impact fishing methods which don’t damage the seabed and allow our amazing muddy undersea habitats to recover, as well as attending local food festivals, running sustainable seafood masterclasses, and working will schools and youth groups to teach everyone how to source and prepare sustainable Solway seafood, as an easy, delicious, and affordable part of a low-carbon diet! 

Vicky Hope, The Fairydust Emporium, Silloth

Vicky was born in Silloth but moved away to work as an IT sales manager in London. She was able to move back home when her sales remit covered Scotland and the North of England.

Vicky set up a cleaning and clearance business in Silloth and decided that rather than waste the items she was clearing out she should set up a shop to sell them. As part of this she sold teas and coffees. As this took off in a big way, she also started providing food. And so, the Fairydust Emporium was born! This very popular local café has now been running for seven years.

Vicky has a strong connection with the Solway as her grandfather was a shrimp fisherman from Annan. Her father and uncle were also shrimp fishers and she has many memories of them on the boats and her families all sat around the table “picking” shrimp. Picking involves pinching of the head and tail of the cooked shrimps to remove the shell.

Where possible Vicky uses local produce in her menu with one of her specialties involving Ray’s potted shrimp.

Mark Messenger, Haaf Netter on the Solway

Mark was born and bred in Carlisle. He started haaf netting on the Solway with his grandfather, soon realising that the reason his grandfather took him along was to carry the fish! Mark runs the Rock Pub in Carlisle with his partner but continues to haaf net whenever he can. Mark had been fishing for many years before taking people out to experience haaf netting as a way of helping to fund the Haaf Net Associationand other charities.  At present there is a ‘catch and release’ system in place for salmon, but the haaf netters can catch and take a limited number of sea trout. So, if anyone is lucky enough to catch a sea trout on their trip, Mark will take it back to the Rock Pub to prepare, cook and serve – a very fresh taste of the Solway!

He told us “There’s nothing like the tranquillity of the Solway, hearing the birds and getting great views of the four mountain ranges around you”. Despite having to constantly be aware of the changing tides and channels Mark finds it a relaxing hobby.

It is thought that haaf netting was brought to the Solway by the Vikings. The beam of the net is 17feet long which is the same length as a Viking oar. It seems likely that after settling on the shores of the Solway, they put the oars to good use and make hand-held fishing nets.  The nets were traditionally made from nettles, providing the name, and this continued until nylon came into use. Haaf netters can fish on their own or in a line of men out into the channel. At Glasson the channel has a deep drop so the line is usually 4 or 5 strong but at Bowness on Solway the low slope of the channel allows for up to 18 fishers in the line.  They stand in the channel of the incoming tide and catch fish swimming upstream. They can then also fish the outgoing tide.

Fishing Faces was managed by Solway Firth Partnership to bring a new perspective to the Solway fishery by revealing the people behind the scenes in the fishing industry along the Allerdale coast. The project was funded by Allerdale Borough Council and mostly produced within the Solway Coast AONB.

Photography and image copyright – Penny Watson, pennywatson.co.uk

Filming and film copyright – Fluid Productions, fluidproductions.co.uk