“People have no idea of what we have to go through — working 20 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Cathal O’Sullivan, 25.
Based in Castletownbere, he fishes 160km off the south coast on the €1 million 80-feet white fish seining vessel, The Tea Rose, owned by his brother-in-law Paddy O’Sullivan.
He can be at sea — away from his girlfriend, Tara, and their five-year-old son, Darragh — for up to a month.
The Kenmare-born skipper is one of four captains in the Irish white fish fleet who gave film crews unique access for a new series billed as Ireland’s answer to the hit series, Deadliest Catch.
Skippers, a six-part series which starts on Sunday, will give viewers a fascinating insight into life on board the vessels, the lives of the men who work on them, and the treacherous conditions they face every time they put to sea.
It shows how each of the crews work up to 20-hour shifts, battle huge Atlantic swells, 130km/h gales and struggle against regulations as they scour the ocean in search of the perfect catch.
With rising fuel prices, falling catch prices, and restrictive quotas, his job is getting even tougher.
“Regulations and restrictions are putting huge financial pressures on boat owners,” Cathal said.
“We can’t sell our own fish in our own country. Some of it is sold in Ireland but most goes to Scotland and Spain.
“As much as I’d like to see a future in fishing, I’d see me getting my time out of it, but not for my son and three nephews.”
He hit out at quota restrictions which force Irish boats to dump vast quantities of fish.
“The fish are there. There are plenty of fish out there. I believe in closing off some fishing grounds to let stocks recover but how can you justify throwing dead fish back when people are starving?” he said.
And he predicted a bleak future for the industry.
“It is in tatters. We have a quota of two tonnes of cod a month. That’s not enough to make repayments on the boat, let alone pay the crew wages and make a profit,” he said.
Film crews also spent time on board Michael Meade’s Buddy M, which fishes out of Crosshaven, Ross Classon’s Ainmire, which fishes out of Donegal and Scotland, and David Pryce’s boat, the John B, which fishes 130km off the east coast.
*Skippers, produced by Kenmare’s Martin Cronin, begins on Sunday, July 25, at 8.30pm on RTÉ 1.