“There’s a bright future ahead, but we have to work together to make it happen.”
Job: Skipper, shellfish vessel
"I've been a skipper for around 13 years now," notes Paul Robertson, the latest in his family to carry on a fishing tradition spanning over a century. As skipper of the trawler Zenith alongside his brother Adam, Paul stands as the fourth generation to make his living from the sea.
Paul practically grew up aboard boats, recalling his first summer trips with his dad at age 11 to earn some extra spending money. Weekend and school holiday work lugging heavy boxes of fish ingrained an unrelenting work ethic from a young age. Though Paul dreamed of going to sea full-time, his father insisted he finish secondary school first.
At just 20 years old, Paul gained the certification required to serve as a working skipper. "My dad said, 'Why would I stand in the way?'" By 21, he was running fishing trips solo. Paul values the trust and latitude his father gave him to chart his own course as captain. However, his dad still provides invaluable shoreside operational support handling administrative tasks and quotas.
In recent years, Paul secured financing to commission a new, state-of-the-art trawler specially designed for efficiency and sustainability. Alongside brother Adam, he devoted months to planning every aspect of the vessel to meet their fishing needs.
"When we got the nod that we could build the new boat, that was a no brainer for us, really, working with MacDuff and supporting a local business just makes sense, because at the end of the day, without them we wouldn't get to sea."
Paul ranks the launch of this boat as one of his proudest accomplishments. He is most excited to build something enduring that he can one day pass down should his young children wish to join the ranks of Robertson fishing captains.
Though optimistic about the Scottish fishing industry's future, Paul stresses the need for improved dialogue between fishermen and government around policies affecting their livelihoods. He sees great potential if these groups actively "work together to make sure that future happens" in a spirit of collaboration versus antagonism.
Paul concludes simply, "You have to take the bad years on the chin and hope the good years continue." Through perseverance, careful planning and strong family ties, he remains confident the fortunes of both his clan and broader Scottish fishing community can continue rising for decades ahead.