A GROUP of fishermen in Monmouthshire dedicated to preserving a centuries-old way of life will celebrate their fishery's centenary this year.

The members of Black Rock Lave Net Heritage Fishery, based in Portskewett, are the only fishermen on the Severn Estuary to still use the traditional nets to catch salmon in the river - a method which has not changed in centuries.

This year marks 100 years since the group's founding members returned home from service after the First World War to find their fishing rights had been taken away.

The men formed an organised group and campaigned to regain those rights - eventually succeeding and establishing the Black Rock fishery.

Today, the group includes some descendants of those founders, and they continue to defend and promote their traditional work with pride.

"This is my cultural heritage - it means everything to me," fishery secretary Martin Morgan said.

"I'll pass on what has been passed down to me. Had my ancestors not fought for the fishery, it would have disappeared."


Mr Morgan and his brother Richard are the great-grandsons of one of the fishery's founders, William Corbin.

He said the group's focus was on preserving the traditional way of life, rather than turning a profit. The fishery is limited, legally, to catching only a handful of salmon at a time.

"We've fought to survive, and that meant accepting we were not a commercial fishery" he said.

Instead, the group holds open days for members of the public to learn more about their almost unique fishing methods, and in the summer the fishermen introduced Prince Charles to their work when he visited their stall at the Royal Welsh Show.

To mark the centenary year, the Black Rock fishery will hold several events when the salmon season kicks off in earnest at the start of the summer.

The fishermen will also be immortalised in a sculpture this spring, commissioned as part of The Living Levels project, which celebrates the heritage and natural beauty in and around the Gwent Levels.

Chainsaw sculptor Chris Wood will carve a wooden statue of a fisherman at work. It will be unveiled at the Black Rock picnic site in Portskewett later this year.

But alongside the celebrations, Mr Morgan said the fishermen must continue their hard work to preserve the fishery for future generations.

"These things are fragile and easily lost," he said. "Hopefully it can be passed on and continued for another 100 years. It's something to be treasured and nurtured."