“Solutions can be found if government works with fishermen, not against them.”
Job: Part-owner, shellfish vessel
For Mark Robertson, fishing is a lifelong vocation spanning four decades. Hailing from the fishing village of Gardenstown, he represents the third generation of his family to make their living from the sea.
Mark first stepped onto a boat aged just 16 after his father suggested earning summer work while awaiting a merchant navy apprenticeship. "I got hooked on the job and decided to ditch the apprenticeship and stay at sea," he recalls.
In 1990 he bought his first vessel aged 22, driven by a desire to be his own boss. Mark steadily built up his business over the years, working alongside his two sons Paul and Adam who now skipper the trawler Zenith that Mark part-owns.
While fishing has afforded Mark's family financial security, he acknowledges the job's difficulties. Rising costs, tight quotas and lack of funding for science to accurately track fish stocks are constant challenges.
Mark has also witnessed the decline of once thriving fishing communities like Gardenstown, which has lost most of its fleet as well as many local services. He worries about encroaching wind farms and restrictions forcing boats from traditional fishing grounds.
Yet Mark maintains optimism that solutions can be found if government works with fishermen, not against them. He is encouraged that fish numbers are increasing in many regions due to better regulation.
Mark is proud to have invested in a new, more fuel-efficient trawler to help meet sustainability goals, despite added expense. But he believes measures which protect stock must not jeopardise the next generation's futures.
"We're fishermen, that's what we do," says Mark. "We have to try and work through it the best we can."
After 38 years at sea, Mark Robertson's dedication to his craft and community remains undimmed, matched only by his determination to preserve fishing opportunities for his sons and beyond.