A Fish Out of Water

In this documentary Ben Fogle takes on one of Britain’s most dangerous and difficult jobs as he experiences the life of a North Sea Fisherman. He quickly realises it’s going to be one of his toughest TV challenges to date.

His journey begins in Peterhead, North-East Scotland, and takes him on three vessels performing different, but equally challenging types of fishing. Taking his place as one of the boat’s crew, working without rest to pull thousands of fish from the water, it’s his aim to find out what draws these tough men back out to sea – each time putting their lives on the line.

Ben Fogle, veteran of challenges that have included rowing across the Atlantic and crossing the Arabian Desert by foot, has his work cut out for him as faces up to the challenge of life as Trawlerman. Sailing from Peterhead, Britain’s biggest Fishing Port his first voyage is with skipper Sandy McLeman on the trawler Rosebloom. On board the trawler for 3 back-breaking days and nights, Ben and the crew are on the hunt for North Sea Haddock and Cod.

As he catches and guts tons of fish, endures sea-sickness and the close scrapes the men who do Britain’s most dangerous job have become accustomed to, Ben becomes a valuable part of the crew as they fill the boat with huge hauls of fish. After gutting thousands of fish by hand and neatly packing them in hundreds of iced boxes, Ben is given the ultimate compliment of “taking watch” and steering this million pound boat back to harbour. Landing the catch back at market in Peterhead, Ben gains an understanding of the financial rewards that help make this difficult and dangerous job worthwhile.

On Ben’s second voyage, he is out on the prawn trawler Pleiades with skipper Gary Hepburn. As they search for this high value catch, Ben sees a more difficult and troubled side to the industry, as they are plagued by problems – from torn and empty nets to an incoming storm that brings the trip to a premature end.

Ben also learns how the difficult working conditions, relatively easy money on offer from the oil industry and tough regulations governing fishing have drawn many skippers and crew away from working the sea. As the crew and skipper battle to break even, Ben hopes for the team that the final net they haul on the trip to be full of prawns, but will it be…?

On his third and final trip out, Ben is sent to work with a man doing one of the loneliest – and most dangerous jobs – in this difficult industry. Working with John Alexander on board the crab fishing boat Chloe May, Ben baits and empties baskets of crabs as the waves rock the small boat from side to side. After an exhausting eight hour shift Ben and John head back to Fraserburgh harbour to offload their catch – which will be in Billingsgate market in London within 24 hours.

It’s a fresh take on one of Britain’s toughest jobs as Ben dons the fisherman’s gear, rolls his sleeves up and genuinely gets stuck in.  There’s no molly coddled TV presenter aboard these fishing vessels and, as a result, Ben believes this is one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do in his life.

Trawlermen’s Lives airs on ITV at 8pm, Wednesday 20th August.