A new champion for local sustainable seafood has been appointed for Cumbria.
Lucy Mather, from Penrith, has been appointed as project officer for My Local Catch, a new project run by Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
The wildlife charity has been awarded £203,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to work with local communities and young people in West Cumbria, in particular around Whitehaven.
Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the aim of the project is to bring to life where our local fish comes from and to raise awareness of marine wildlife in this area.
The project will run for two and a half years, during which time Lucy will work with local fishermen to promote low-impact fishing methods that don’t damage our sea beds.
She’ll work closely with coastal communities, suppliers, retailers, restaurants and schools and youth groups, to raise awareness about the benefits of locally and sustainably sourced seafood and how this will help the recovery of our seas.
Lucy, who has just finished a sixth-month Marine Futures North West Internship with Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re thrilled to have received this support thanks to The National Lottery players and I’m really excited to start work on My Local Catch (the start of the project was delayed last year due to the pandemic).
“In the UK, we export around 80 per cent of the seafood we catch. Let’s try to sell and eat more locally.
“I’ll be working with communities in Whitehaven to encourage them to support their local fishmongers when they can and buy locally sourced, low-impact seafood. I’ll even be offering free cooking demonstrations and taster sessions in collaboration with local chefs.”
Lucy added: “I’ll also be working with our fantastic local fishermen to help them move away from destructive trawl fishing methods towards low-impact, high quality, creel fishing. This is a more sustainable way of fishing for Dublin Bay Prawns (you may know them as scampi), using pots, as they don’t damage the important seabed habitats.
“The muddy bottom of the Irish Sea is a delicate ecosystem and home to some precious and endangered wildlife, such as sea pens – relatives of corals which look like old-fashioned feather quills.
“Creel fishing also allows vital fish stocks to recover, as fisherman can be selective, only choosing catch which is ready to be taken, and releasing that which is too small or not the target species. It will help to restore healthy marine ecosystems for generations to come.”
She also hopes to work with local organisations that are addressing food poverty, to help low-income families to use sustainably caught seafood in an affordable way.
You can meet Lucy at SeaFest on July 31 at St Bees Beach, a family celebration of our local Cumbrian catch. You can expect some familiar favourites from the St Bees Beached Art festival, a popular event with local people for many years, including the much-loved sand sculpture competition.
This year there’ll be lots more on offer, including a range of outdoor activities for children and adults about local marine life and seafood cooking demonstrations.
Also look out for Lucy at food festivals around the county, such as Taste Cumbria in Cockermouth in September, where she’ll be promoting My Local Catch and helping people discover new ways of cooking and eating locally-caught seafood. She will also be working in food tech and careers departments in secondary schools to get young people onboard.