The festival includes demonstrations of fish preparation and cookery, talks about various subjects and a comprehensive programme of entertainment. There are also a number of stalls and exhibitions providing food, crafts and information.
Newquay was once a very important pilchard fishing port. Pilchards are an oily fish, sometimes called sardines, which used to form a major part of the Cornish diet. Before the winter months began, families would collect thousands of pilchards and place them in large barrels, covered in salt. Sometimes the fish were pressed to preserve them. This process caused an oil to come out of the fish, which was used in lamps. The burning of this black oil was very smelly indeed and Cornish fishing villages were well known for their smell.