Ben Bengey is 18 years old, one of the youngest skippers in the North Devon fleet. He has been fishing since he was 13 years old, when he used to run down from school just to make the tide.
Ben is now proud to run his own boat, the Silver Spirit. But, in order to pay the loan he took to buy the boat, he has to keep it working every day.
The Silver Spirit is the only boat in Ilfracombe Harbour with both a commercial and a charter licence. That means that Ben can go potting for lobster and crab, as well as take parties out on 4 and 8 hour angling trips. He also takes groups of visitors out for one-and-a-half hour ‘lobster safaris’. This flexibility is very important for Ben and it allows him to keep his business viable.
During the Blue New Deal launch event in September 2015, Ben talked about why he thinks conservation measures are not the problem but the solution for a new generation: “when the lobster is too small, we put it back. It may have kids, grow bigger. I don’t see any reason to keep them, that’s messing with your own future.”
Ben is supportive of measures to recover depleting fish stocks and talks proudly of the Lundy No Take Zone (NTZ), which is located not too far from where he fishes. A NTZ means that activities such as scallop harvesting, dredging, beam trawling and angling have all been excluded from happening in this designated area. Lundy’s 3.3km2 NTZ was designated in 2003 to protect marine wildlife while improving local fish stocks for the benefit of future generations. Whilst the NTZ is relatively small, it contains a great variety of habitats and species, many of which are nationally important.
Ben is also a dedicated crew member of the Ilfracombe RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and the only full time fisher in the group.
To learn more about Ben’s story, watch A Life in the Day of a Young Fisherman, a film by Mark Brindle & Stu Gaunt, produced by Jo Stewart-Smith – one of a series of ten short films narrated by fishermen and skippers at www.boatstories.co.uk