WHITBY’S struggling fishing industry has been dealt another devastating blow this week, Whitby Gazette chief reporter Alex Fredman can exclusively reveal.
The town’s sole remaining fishing vessel agency, Alliance Fish Whitby Limited, is scaling back operations and can no longer balance its books due to EU restrictions which it says are beyond its control.
The firm intends to close down its chandlery business, stop operating the Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) backed commercial ice plant which supplies ice to Whitby’s skippers and resign from its role in Whitby Shellfish Co-operative Limited which operates the Shellfish Holding Facility.
But despite the fact the fishing vessel agency side of the business – which includes Whitby’s fish market – has been consistently losing money, directors have decided not to close this part of the business for now and are exploring options to save it – a decision is expected in March.
Managing director of Alliance Fish, Dave Winspear, who has been involved in the fishing industry for 34 years, said with Whitby’s few remaining fishing boats having to work elsewhere due to the lack of fishing opportunities for the fleet, the only other contributors to the white fish market are a handful of under 10m boats only capable of supplying small and sporadic amounts to the auction.
He said: “While it is recognised these actions will have a disastrous effect upon the local industry, after careful consideration, the directors decided these loss-making businesses cannot continue indefinitely.
“Not only can the few remaining vessels typically fish for less than a third of the year – they also have to discard dead fish at sea – ironically in the name of conservation.
“Lately fisheries/science partnerships are at last showing far more promising data on most species.
“Unfortunately it takes several years of this data gathering to demonstrate the upward trends that should convince EU Commissioners that this madness should stop.
“Sadly, it appears that Whitby may not have the luxury of waiting for this.”
Chairman of Whitby Harbour Board, Peter Popple who is also SBC’s cabinet member for harbours, reaffirmed the council’s support for Whitby’s fishing industry and said it will continue to lobby on EU policy.
He said: “This news is a potentially devastating blow not only to the industry itself, but also to the whole town and the wider Whitby area which for so many years has been proud to have fishing as part of its heritage and visitor appeal.
“We are continuing to talk to representatives from the local fishing industry to ensure that fishing activity at Whitby continues.”
Don’t forget to sign our Fight For Our Fleet Petition which we have available at the Whitby Gazette office reception.