Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Quay Issues - the way ahead!

While most 16 year-olds are hunched over their phones or fretting about homework, Ben Lowe is out on the open sea pondering the expansion of the business empire he founded when he was a schoolboy. The entrepreneurial teenager is making a splash with his one-man fishing business which sees him supply fresh lobster, crab and line caught fish to restaurants and wholesalers across Cornwall.

He is the skipper of his own 8.2metre catamaran, Atlantic Voyager operating from Newquay, and despite the fact he already operates 80 pots is looking to boost that to up to 400 and open a retail unit. Ben, who bought his first licensed vessel when he was just 13, has become something of a poster boy for the future of the fishing industry, which he is convinced has a vibrant future.

"I love the freedom of it, because I can work at my own pace and choose my own ways," he said. "I also like finding new ways of fishing and of course, being my own boss. "Besides, it is very nice and peaceful to be out at sea on your own."

Ben first caught the fishing bug thanks to his parents, who own Atlantic Diver, a diving and wildlife tourism business. He started going out to sea at the age of five, accompanying his father, Chris, on fishing trips with tourists. "I loved being on the boat, out in the open and wanted to find a way of making a living from it, so I chose to become a commercial fisherman," he said. "It's an ever-changing environment, meaning no two days are the same.

"The volume and species you catch varies with the weather and the seasons so it means you constantly have to think on your feet and adapt your methods. "I also love the adventure of solving problems, for example when something goes wrong with the boat; you have to find out what's causing the problem and then find a way of fixing it. "Really though, it's a passion."

Ben, whose story features in the latest issue of the national seafood industry magazine, Quay Issues, officially launched his business in July when he was legally of age to do so. However, he was working towards that day for a long time and both he and his family spent years pulling together the resources and undertaking essential training. "To get to where I am today, my family and I invested in many boats, first starting off with smaller boats and doing them up, selling them and progressing on to slightly larger boats. "Eventually I built up sufficient capital to buy a big enough boat that I could use for commercial fishing."

The financial side was the biggest hurdle, especially coping with the start up costs which mean that for at least a year Ben said he would be "effectively losing money" as he builds the business. He has shown remarkable acumen however by spreading out investments over time, buying and renovating boats and using profits to inch up the ladder. He said: "Eventually when I was about 13, a very cheap, very run down licensed fishing vessel came onto the market, which I bought and slowly upgraded to its current condition." Ben is confident that the fishing industry has a buoyant future.

"The local inshore industry is very sustainable and the fish stocks are being maintained well at the current rates of stock recovery. "The fishing knowledge and experience I'm gaining right now will be very useful in the future, especially as I learn more and get better at fishing over the coming years. "Also, I love being part of the Newquay harbour fishing community. "Everyone here looks after each other and I want to continue being part of this vibrant community."

Read more from the West Briton here: