A Dying Tradition: Beach Fishing from the German Baltic Sea
Both sides of Uwe’s family come from fishing families, going back generations. It was his grandfather that introduced him to the craft. People like Uwe are a dying breed. The beaches used to be filled with fishermen. But when we joined them in July at four in the morning, they were the only ones preparing to head out to sea. Today the catch is exclusively flounder, destined for the restaurant, the local market, and other shops. Shelves look nicely stocked, but as always, appearances can be deceiving. But Uwe says that lately, fishing families haven’t been able to live on what they’re catching, his included. For Uwe, it’s not just about feeding families. It’s about keeping the tradition alive. And it’s no easy feat to recruit a new generation when it’s already hard to make a living. Shortly after our visit, the EU released new proposed quotas for 2019. Uwe stands to see a 63 percent reduction in the amount of herring he can fish. These stricter regulations are in place to foster sustainable habitats. To be fair, it seems to be working. Herring populations have been growing in the Baltic Sea, but the scientific community also says that the habitat needs to grow even more to ensure it doesn’t collapse. It’s a message that doesn’t seem to have been communicated to Uwe. The winter months are coming, and with ice, it can mean up three months of no work for Uwe’s fishing crew. Less food for the family, for the restaurant, and for the market. But he’ll be ready as soon as the weather clears. That’s what Uwe and his kind were born to do. Be out on the water with the sunrise, providing for their families, being fishermen.