DOCUMENTARY photographer Damian Bird spent two years taking 300,000 photographs of West Bay fishermen.

That was the 'easy' part.

For his book Seabird he had to whittle those down to 250 and in doing so make sure he still illustrated just what it takes to be an in shore fisherman - the strength, the skill and the courage.

For both - taking the pictures and writing and editing the book - he was often up before dawn working long hours but the end result, he said, was worth every hour.

He said: "It just seemed like the absolute perfect subject because it has that magical thing of being real.

"The harbour is a container and it has its own community. Loosely speaking all the fishermen are doing roughly the same thing but here are infinite differences and subtleties and they are very much unique characters."

Damian was struck by the truth of they way the fishermen view themselves as a sort of 'buddy' club.

He said: "Although they are in some ways in competition there is absolutely nothing they would not do for each other, They are in nine different boats but in other ways they are all in the same boat and very much watching each other's backs.

"Shooting the book over the last two years you see it is not just a community in the harbour it is a community at sea.

"They appear to me to be the last indigenous true hunter gatherers especially as what they are doing is so non intensive. the technology is such that the fishermen work in a way that is sustainable.

"They are like guardians of a nature reserve of which they have become a part."

The time he spent documenting the men made him realise, and appreciate, just what it takes to harvest the sea.

He said: "You have to have this incredible combination of being good hunter, of being fearless, of being very intelligent and very skilled and not just on at fishing side of it but skilled in terms of being an engineer bring able to fix your own boat and being a good businessman, good at working on your own and good with people.

"I just found it mind blowing the fact that you have this fusion of attributes in all of the fishermen. I was very humbled by it."

Damian felt an immense responsibility to the work, recognising that theirs was an important story to tell.

"I learned while photographing it just how important this way of life is to all of us because in a sense as an island nation we take it for granted when you go to these harbours all the way round the British Isles there are the fishermen. They are the magic

"So much is against them. I felt that I did have a huge responsibility to capture the magic."

Damian worked closely with West Bay fisherman David Sales, who has been out on the water for more than 60 years.

He too, thinks it is an important - and timely - project.

Mr Sales said: "I think in a sense he is capturing a moment in time one that is very much under threat from bureaucracy and conservationists who by in large don't have the experiences of how small fishermen work.

"It is a timely book.

"I think we all appreciate what he is putting together and hopefully it will put West Bay fishermen on the map on quite a large scale.

"It could be far reaching - you never know who it might influence at a higher level.

"Maybe the book will bring home to some people the effort that goes in to catch the fish and get it to their plate."

Damian's become friends with the fishermen but but particular tribute to Mr Sales for making West Bay the example it is.

He said: "One of things that makes the West Bay harbour such a good model is because David Sales has very much stood up for the little guy and provided this safe zone.

"He hasn't just protected an industry he has protected a culture and he has created a sustainable model that should be replicated all the way round the British Isles, even globally, because it is sustainable.

"The culture of fishing is protected and the fish are protected."

That's why he is so thrilled that David likes the book.

Damian added: ""So when I sat down with David and he said you've done it I was absolutely thrilled - as he said 'don't waste this' it is very important document.

"It does present itself as something that has become more important than I could have ever hoped in terms of showing what needs to be protected and why it is worth standing up for these guys rather than making things harder for them.

"So much depends on it - not only the on-going fish stocks but also the tourist industry."

He said without the fishermen around our coasts they'd be little more than Disney-like theme parks.

Fisherman Jamie Smith said: “The biggest attraction in West Bay, as far as the tourists go, are the fishermen and the fishing. You’ve only got to put a box of fish on the quayside and there’s a crowd there looking to see what you’ve caught. If they come from a city or something, it’s a completely different way of life to them and they’re often fascinated by it.

"If you look at the average age of the West Bay fishermen, it’s about 50 years old. And the investment needed, to buy a boat and all the gear, is so high that the youngsters are going into other jobs. If the government doesn’t look after the in-shore fishermen and help the youngsters get into the fishing industry, then in another 15-20 year time, we’ll all have gone.”

Seabird is for sale for £25 see

Damian is taking pre-orders in order to raise money to print the book - without enough pre-orders, the book will not be printed.

The fishermen featured are Pete ‘the Worm’ Newton and Jack Woolmington, David Sales, Mark Cornwell, Donald Johnson, Ted Hook, Jamie Smith, Aubrey Banfield,John Worswick and Steve Aylesworth.