Skippers set to restart fishing

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THE port authority and geography combine to make Whitby a “very, very severe place to work out of”, according to one trawlerman.

Skipper James Cole is this week returning to the fishing grounds aboard his vessel, Good Intent III, as he prepares for the end of guard duty, which has proved so successful in supplementing many local trawlermen’s incomes.

However, he said that there are many factors working against Whitby fishermen that make their job tougher - some are unavoidable, while others are unnecessary.

“Guard duty is drawing to a close, it could end at any time,” he said.

“Now we’ve had our allocation of days we’re going to start doing a bit more fishing.”

For five generations the Cole family, originally from Staithes, have fished along the east coast of the UK. Originally targeting cod, they have recently diversified into winter prawn fishing out of Shields and Hartlepool, landing catch to Caley Fisheries of Shields.

However, Mr Cole did state that if the oil rig companies should call again, the trawlermen would down fishing tools and return to guard duty.

He added: “I can’t afford not to do it because it’s saving your days at sea and your quota.”

For the meantime the vessels are to begin using their tightly-controlled quota to start fishing again, but Mr Cole said that this may not yet prove the boost that is needed to spur the fish market back into life.

Instead of bringing their catch back to Whitby, the crew of the Good Intent III will be landing prawns at North Shields, which Mr Cole said is an “easier and cheaper port” to use.

He said: “It’s a handy place, much better for the fishing grounds.

“It’s a four hour steam to get out to the prawn ground from Whitby, whereas out of the Tyne it’s only an hour.”

In the past this steaming period has not proved a huge obstacle, but with extremely tight restrictions on the amount of time trawlers are allowed at sea - currently 100 days per year - every hour counts and Whitby trawlers are often choosing not to come home.

Scarborough Borough Council are also not helping Whitby’s fishermen, said Mr Cole, who added that poor dredging has meant that if the tide is unfavourable the vessels may waste hours waiting to enter port.

He also said: “Because of reduced landings at Whitby they want more money out of the people that’s left so they take a percentage of our income.

“The Tyne Port Authority make it a cheaper port to work out of as you pay one set fee.”

For each £1 a fisherman earns in Whitby, he must give 4p to the port authority.

There are also then transportation costs, as the factories where the catch are processed are actually in the north, closer to the other ports.

Mr Cole said that all these factors combine to make Whitby an undesirable port to land catch, so he will continue to unload his catch at North Shields.

A recent graduate of Whitby Fishing School has joined Mr Cole and his crew.

18-year-old Mitch Cunliffe from Salford has joined the crew after gaining thousands of hours experience and achieving the grade of deckhand.