“Fishing is one of the last true hunter-gatherer jobs.”
Job: Skipper on a white fish trawler
Mark grew up surrounded by the sea. From a young age, he was drawn to the adventure and reward of the fishing industry. Now, he carries on his family legacy as a third-generation fisherman.
At just 16, Mark got his first job on a fishing boat with a distant cousin of his father's. He was enthralled by the prospect of earning a good living doing something he loved. "When I was at school then I used to see the young fishermen at the time running around with nice cars and motorbikes," he recalls.
Over the next decade, Mark honed his skills, learning the ropes of the trade. By 27, he had earned the title of skipper on his own boat. He describes fishing as "man against the elements" and one of the last true "hunter gatherer jobs." The immense satisfaction that comes from braving the seas and bringing home a bountiful catch continues to motivate Mark every day.
In recent years, Mark has witnessed firsthand the changes sweeping through the industry. Decommission schemes greatly reduced the size of the fleet around Shetland. Mark believes this led to increased availability of catch for remaining vessels, but also impacted associated jobs in processing and engineering.
Always headstrong, he invested in the original Prolific and Copious in the mid-2000s when everyone else was still coming to terms with the massive decommissioning program. Mark’s ambitions were rewarded when whitefish stocks recovered in the mid-2010s.
Mark recently invested in two new, larger boats built in Croatia. He hopes features like rapid catch cooling will allow him to land even higher quality fish. Sustainability and stewardship of the seas drive all of Mark's decisions. As a father passing his legacy on to two sons in the industry, preserving fish stocks for future generations is critically important.
When asked about his hopes for the future, Mark expresses concern about misconceptions of trawlers as overly destructive. In reality, he explains, trawlers only gently disturb the upper layers of sediment and can sustainably harvest populations. Mark fears misguided regulations like permanently closed areas, which he has seen provide minimal conservation benefit while destroying livelihoods.
Above all, Mark wishes to convey the passion and pride of Scotland's multi-generational fishing families. "There's nothing particularly easy about it. So when you have any measure of success at all, there's a great feeling of satisfaction," he says. For Mark and fishermen like him, fishing is so much more than a job - it's a calling deeply rooted in heritage, community and a drive to sustainably provide for the future.