IT’S the oldest squadron in the Royal Navy, and was once the stomping ground of a young Horatio Nelson.
And in these modern times, the Fishery Protection Squadron is as important as it ever was.
Its three Portsmouth-based ships, HMS Severn, HMS Mersey and HMS Tyne, spent 675 days at sea last year, covering 80,000 square miles of British coastline. They inspected 1,300 vessels, detained 13 and handed out £90,000 in fines to fishermen who flout the law.
Policing UK waters is a full-time job and the small ships are constantly on patrol to detect over-fishing.
Many of the officers in the squadron are young.
‘It’s a good chance to broaden their skills and show what they are made of early on in their career,’ said Lt Cdr Catherine Jordan, commanding officer of HMS Severn – and one of only two women to command a navy ship.
She added: ‘It’s a good ship to work in because it’s a real job and you see results every day. You have to be recommended to become an officer on one of these ships. It’s a lot of responsibility.
‘Nelson was a lieutenant in fishery protection so I like to think we’re following in good footsteps.’
This week, the ships carried out military exercises, such as gunnery and manoeuvres, in the Solent.
Captain Mark Durkin, who is in charge of Mine Warfare, Fishery Protection and Diving, joined HMS Severn for the exercises.
He said: ‘They largely operate independently so it’s good to come together for two or three days a year to operate as a squadron.
‘It also provides a chance for commanding officers and managers to hold a conference and share their ideas and experiences to develop best practice.’
The ships, which have 30 sailors serving on board at one time, are tiny and more relaxed than larger ships.
Able Seaman Sean Oakley, 25, from Portsmouth, said: ‘We’re like a close family.’