THE OWNER of the biggest independent fishing fleet in the UK – and a byword for trawler fishing – is using the relaunch of its fish shop to celebrate its history.
W Stevenson and Sons's fleet of 13 beam trawlers and one 12-metre stern trawler are the current flagships of a proud family business that has been at the heart of the Newlyn community for more than 100 years.
Generations of fishermen from west Cornwall have gone to sea on the boats – often named for favourite members of the Stevenson clan – in their black and Cornish gold livery.
And with today's reopening of the Newlyn Fish Shop on The Strand, it is launching a retrospective of more than 100 years of history. But the company is also looking to the future with everything from a new focus on communicating with the people who actually eat the fish, to a drive to protect the environment.
Commercial director John Tucker said: "We are investing for the future and plan to interact a lot more with our customers.
"This is an exciting time for Stevenson's as we have been involved with Newlyn and fishing for over 100 years and are now investing for the future, sharing our passion for fish and the Cornish fishing industry with a wider customer base. You cannot beat the taste of fresh fish and when you can add that it has come direct from one of our own boats straight from the Newlyn auction, you are assured of its provenance too."
As well as the newly renovated fishmongers, Stevenson said it had been investing in community projects in Newlyn, such as the new gallery on Badcock's Block, and working with schools and colleges.
On the boats themselves, a distinctive part of the Mount's Bay scenery as they steam in and out of Newlyn harbour and even fish out in the bay, there are new environmental provisions.
Mr Tucker said: "We are always looking to improve on our gear configuration and net designs so that our discards are kept to a minimum and that juvenile fish are allowed to escape the net, to ensure that fish stocks are allowed to develop for the future. We are also quick to look at any new developments and assess the suitability or ability of adaptation for use among our fleet.
"Through various initiatives we are able to reduce our CO² emissions, and in doing so reduce our carbon footprint. These reductions have been achieved through the lightening of gear, using more open gear, installation of five-bladed propellers and, more importantly, becoming smarter at what we do."
Mr Tucker said: "Having just been re-assessed for the RFS (Responsible Fishing Scheme), we are also checked against a stringent quality standard to ensure that the fish we land is the finest, the best quality and the best presented."
There is a lot to test. When a Stevenson boat lands, the refrigerated fish hold can contain as many as 30 to 40 different species of fish, all of which will be offered for sale at the next available market. The company prides itself on getting the fish to the end user within 24 hours of landing.
Mr Tucker added: "Not only are we proud of our fish but also the association that we have had with Cornwall for over 100 years."