Skipper’s regret as Abbie leaves

Abbie Lee'w123110c Picture by Ceri Oakes
Abbie Lee'w123110c Picture by Ceri Oakes

ANOTHER trawler has been sold, the third boat to leave Whitby this year, casting further doubt on the future of the town’s flagship industry.

John Hall has sold his trawler, Abbie Lee, and expects the vessel to leave Whitby for good on 12 November.

John Hall and his son Neil who are hoping to sell their fishing vessel Abbie Lee  ''w123815a

John Hall and his son Neil who are hoping to sell their fishing vessel Abbie Lee ''w123815a

John has recently spoken to his Gazette about not wanting to sell his vessel, but explained he had very little choice. “Personally I didn’t want to get rid of her, but with one thing after another we decided to let it go,” he said, adding that the bureaucracy faced by trawlers is “ridiculous” and makes fishing difficult.

“I thought the few of us that was left, they would look after us, but they haven’t,” he said.

Abbie Lee was purchased a decade ago in partnership with Locker’s Trawlers, who John and his son Neil bought out in 2007.

Like most trawlers, a large source of steady income was gained from guard duty contracts, protecting oil and gas pipelines.

When it was announced Abbie Lee would not be receiving another contract, two crewmembers left the vessel.

It was at this point that the owners decided to put Abbie Lee up for sale.

Abbie Lee was the only large trawler regularly landing catch at Whitby, but John believes the fish market will survive.

Whitby’s one other trawler, Copious, has so far managed to retain guard duty contracts and has not been fishing for over a year, although owner Richard Brewer believes they may restart before the end of the year.

Smaller vessels such as Pamela S and Endeavour will continue to use the market, however, and will be supplemented by visiting vessels such as Carousel from Scarborough.

Another Scarborough vessel which has been using Whitby recently is Eagernoon, and this is set to return to Whitby permanently after it was purchased by James and Mark Cole, who have been out of the business since selling their trawler Good Intent in June.

John took the opportunity to thank Shaun Wood, who owns Whitby Fish Sales, for his support. He said: “The office will survive. Us going won’t have helped but what can you do? If it hadn’t been for Shaun opening this office it would have been a job, he’s looked after us. One of our biggest regrets is leaving Shaun.”

Until November, when Abbie Lee departs, the boat will be see out a 21-day contract with Seafast, which allows them to catch fish free from quota.

Following the sale Neil Hall, who skippers the vessel, said that he hopes to remain in the industry and will try to purchase a smaller, under 10-metre vessel, which will allow him to return to fishing, free from many of the restrictions that plague trawler skippers.

Crewmember Mitch Tunnicliffe will remain with Abbie Lee until November, then he expects to move over to Eagernoon.

After 40 years at sea, John plans to set up a guest house in Whitby and hopes to spend his mornings making breakfasts for tourists. Although he has not yet purchased a property, he said he has set his eyes on one. “I haven’t seen one better anywhere in the world,” he said.