UK-158 fishes for flatfish in winter and langoustines in summer. Images: Jacob van Urk & zonen

Jacob van Urk in UK-158’s wheelhouse

UK-158’s crew on deck

Jacob van Urk joined the air force after leaving school, but found himself drawn back to the sea, spending time enjoying the freedom of the family’s sailing boat before returning to his fishing roots. Now in his mid-50s, he skippers Eurocutter Willem Jacob UK-158, landing catches to the auction in Urk.

‘At this time of year we are fishing for sole with a by-catch of plaice, turbot and brill,’ he said.

‘Then from May to October we’re fishing for langoustines. But right now it’s flatfish.Last week we had bad weather, so there wasn’t as good a catch as usual; 1250kg of sole, 350kg of turbot and brill, and 800kg of plaice. We always like to do better, but due to the weather we didn’t go to our usual grounds north of the islands and were instead off the coast.’

He commented that so far it has been a good year, with fuel prices down and fish prices good, and the langoustine fishing has been up to standard.

‘Since we started fishing wth pulse gear, it has been more stable,’ he said, adding that Brexit is not a major concern for them as they do not fish as far west as UK waters, but it represents a threat for many of their colleagues in the Dutch fleet – while the uncertainty over the future of the pulse fishery and the loss of fishing grounds due to windfarms and MPAs is enough to lose sleep over.

‘Losing the pulse gear would be a huge blow. It’s a fantastic invention that gets criticism from countries that don’t have any problems with pulse fishing. But we need to resist British protectionism and French outrage. And we need to be careful as there are activists that would like to see a complete end to European fishing.’

Jacob van Urk said that the relaxation of the landing obligation requirements is a relief, but this is a postponement and not a solution

‘It’s a relief that we won’t have to land small dabs and plaice, as we are using the Belgian escape panel. That makes a difference to us ad we can continue to return live fish back to the sea. In technical terms, it will be difficult for the demersal industry to separate all fish to avoid certain species. I myself see no harm in a certain amount of by-catch. Some of it survives, and some goes back as food for other marine life,’ he said.

A founder member of EMK, he joined because he felt that fishermen needed more of a voice, and EMK has achieved this.

‘There has been a lot of attention in the press over the past two years. Politics has rarely been as positive about fishing as in recent years. That’s a big step in the right direction. Brussels has also heard us, and that helps. EMK is an excellent addition to all the good work done by VisNed and Nederlandse Vissersbond,’ he said.

‘In the long run, I would prefer to have one organisation, which would be the best for the fishermen at sea. Although I understand that because of the various structures and roles, this may not be easy, but at least consult with one another more often and speak with one voice.’

Source: EMK/Michel Verschoor