How our sardines are caught in Cornwall

The colours of the setting sun above Newlyn Harbour are a sign that it’s time for sardine fisherman David Pascoe to take his crew out on the ocean. Together they sail a small purse seine boat to Mount’s Bay, looking to catch the most beautiful, fatty sardines of the British waters in a sustainable way. That way David contributes to our mission to ensure we can enjoy fish now and in the future.

David and his crew take off from Newlyn to Mount’s Bay about 45 minutes before dusk. Shortly in advance the schools of sardines get located using a sonar system and any conditions that might tribute to the catch of the day are being checked out.

The anchor gets hoisted and a few strong men take in the bright yellow buoys that are attached to the boat. Once we get on the water, David, whose family has been fishing for sardines generation after generation, starts telling about the positive changes that have been happening in the past 20 years. “When I was growing up as a kid, loads of fisheries got exploited too heavily. But we’re in a new era now. Things have changed for the better. Nothing goes to waste. If the orders are not there, we get contacted before we sail. We basically just fish to order. We’re not overfishing and with this management in place we hope the generations after us can do the same thing.”

The sardines, that swim in big schools and are lured to the surface by lamp light, get buried under a net. The bottom line of the net gets attracted which creates a kind of bag from which the fish can no longer escape. It’s already in the middle of the night when the net gets pulled up onto David’s boat. With another net the fish gets scooped out and thrown into the hold of the ship, where it stays fresh until David and his crew return.

Even before dawn David gets back to Newlyn Harbour, where the fish goes straight to the factory to get it prepared for transportation to buyers. “You can easily recognize a fresh sardine. First of all you don’t want to see any redness around the face. Gold is the colour you want and then rainbow colours all the way down the backbone. Plus you want the fish to be nice and firm. If you take it by its head, it has to stay nice and straight and don’t go down into a boomerang shape.”

David’s Cornish sardines are tender, fatty and delicious from the grill!

Check out our video of fishing with David in Cornwall right here: