Food & Drink
Berwyn Dennis knows a thing or two about fish. His father was a Saundersfoot trawlerman for over 40 years, and Berwyn himself has been fishing the Pembrokeshire coast for three decades. His speciality is sea bass, caught by rod and line.
From his home in Narberth he also runs Albatross Fisheries, a collective of local fishermen who are experts in high-quality, sustainable bass.
“I spoke to a couple of boys and said, ‘Do you want to go in as a group, to try and get better prices for the fish?’ and they were all for that,” says Berwyn. “There were four of us initially, and now we’re up to 15 boats.”
Each of them operates on strict principles: the bass are caught sustainably by rod and line, and kept in prime condition on ice on the boat. Berwyn acts as the co-ordinator for the syndicate, grading and weighing the catch, and getting the best price he can. Most of the fish are destined for France, where the quality of Welsh bass is highly prized. “We’ve worked hard to promote the message of sustainably caught sea bass, so they are willing to pay a premium price for it,” says Berwyn.
Albatross Fisheries was founded with assistance from Cywain Fisheries, a Welsh Government project that’s now part of its Welsh Seafood Cluster Scheme and Pembrokeshire Fisheries Local Action Group. “We had a grant towards an ice machine and walk-in chiller, which was a big help. They also helped us set up our website,” says Berwyn. He’s also had support with design, marketing, drafting a formal membership agreement and been on fact-finding trips around the UK.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” says Berwyn. “For instance, a group of fishermen down in Cornwall and Devon are on Twitter. When they come back in they take a picture of their catch, stick it on Twitter and the fish is sold before it hits the quay.”
The exchange of knowledge has been a two-way street. During a trip to a famous London department store, the resident fishmonger proudly proclaimed that all of his bass was sustainably caught by rod and line. Berwyn and his fellow bass fishermen swiftly corrected him. “We told him, ‘You can’t say that. Those bass are net-caught.’ We showed him the net marks on the fish. He piped down pretty quickly after that.”