“Fishing is hardship, reward, community and legacy all rolled into one.”
Job: Deckhand on a white fish trawler
For 19-year-old Nicol Anderson, fishing is in his blood. As the son of fishermen in Shetland, Nicol always knew he would follow in the family trade. Though as a teenager, he considered a different path and dreamed of being a naval cadet. It wasn’t until one fateful summer after high school that Nicol realised his true calling was closer to home, as a fisherman.
“I hated taking the long bus to school in Lerwick. After working on my dad’s boat that summer, I just seemed to like fishing. I never really thought that much of it when I was younger, but over that summer, I thought it was brilliant,” Nicol recalled.
Now Nicol works aboard the Prolific, a state-of-the-art trawler that was just delivered new to Shetland this past June. Alongside his brother, father and brother-in-law, Nicol and his crew fish for monkfish and megrim off the coast of Shetland, braving the frigid winds and rough seas.
While the job can be gruelling, Nicol relishes the camaraderie of the crew and the excitement of not knowing what each day will bring. “You have no guarantee when you actually land your catch what you might make. It really does depend from day to day. It’s a complete gamble,” he explained.
Though Nicol recognises the uncertain future facing the fishing industry, sustainability and responsible practices give him hope. “As far as fish stocks and everything, there’s tight, strict quotas on the boats for the different species and sizes you have to have in your nets. It’s all really well regulated,” he said.
In Shetland, fishing remains an interwoven community where generations of families work side-by-side. “Everybody knows everybody in the fishing community. It’s really tight knit,” Nicol remarked. He takes pride in fishing’s vital role in the local economy and communities.
Now Nicol dreams of earning his Skipper’s ticket in the next year so he can take the helm of his own vessel. Though he knows convincing his father to retire will be a challenge. “I’m probably gonna have to drag him off the boat kicking and screaming,” Nicol joked.
For the Anderson family, fishing is hardship, reward, community and legacy all rolled into one. Through passion and grit, Nicol and his kin keep this centuries-old tradition alive. They embrace innovation when needed but never sever their bonds to the sea and way of life they cherish. For them, fishing is far more than a job or industry. It’s who they are and what they take pride in passing to future generations.