Sea dogs across Europe are being urged to
share stories of strange happenings on the ocean

Cash rewards for
fishermen's tales are being offered by sixteen Sea Life centres in
eight countries, but fanciful yarns of mermaids and monstrous kraken
will not be in contention.

“We're after
true-life tales of real events and may seek witness testimony or some
other corroboration before making any award,” said organiser Mark
Oakley of Sea Life's UK headquarters in Poole, Dorset.

“Fishermen are renowned for their anecdotes, but they
are seldom heard outside fishing fraternity circles, and we felt we
should make an attempt to get them properly recorded.

“We ran a similar appeal from just a handful of UK Sea Life
centres in the early 90s and it generated some amazing stories,” he

“One of the best back then was a
fisherman's account of an exhausted migrant peregrine falcon lost in a
fog-bound North Sea.

“It spotted our fisherman's
white vest and in desperation, used his chest as a perch, knocking him
to the deck in the process.”

Wolf FishOther accounts included one of an encounter with a large stag
swimming far out at sea, and one grisly tale of an angry wolf-fish
biting right through a thick Wellington boot and almost removing a big

Now that there are also Sea Life centres in
Finland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Ireland, Mark and
his colleagues saw an opportunity to collect modern-day sea stories
from across the continent.

“We're hoping for a
good response from professional sea fishermen in particular, as these
are the guys who spend half their lives out at sea and are most likely
to have good stories to tell,” he said.

“But sea
anglers and any other regular seafarers can also enter, and all 16
centres are putting up a cash prize plus free Sea Life tickets for a
dozen runners-up.”

There are plans to publish
the best stories on the Sea Life website, and possibly to produce a
book if there are sufficient entries of a good enough quality.

“Stories can be about anything,” said Mark. “The only
stipulation is that they are factual and they concern happenings on the
open sea.”

Entries can be as long or as brief as
story-tellers want them to be, and should be sent either to the nearest
Sea Life Centre, or e-mailed to

“We're keeping the contest open until the end of
March, but we thought it would be good to launch it now while so many
fishermen are land-bound by winter weather,” said Mark.

The prizes are €300 at all bar the UK Centres, which
are offering £150 plus the chance to pick up a bonus £500 for the best
overall entry.

The UK Sea Life centres offering prizes
for the best fishermen's tales are those at Oban, Scarborough,
Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton, Brighton, Weymouth and the
National Seal Sanctuary, Cornwall.