End of the line for Whitby’s fish market

Dave Winspear from Alliance''w111120    Picture: Ceri Oakes
Dave Winspear from Alliance''w111120 Picture: Ceri Oakes

IT is the end of the line for the business which runs Whitby’s floundering fish market.

Unrealistic EU restrictions placed on the fishing industry have hit the town particularly hard and Alliance Fish Whitby Ltd, which runs the market in Pier Road, has confirmed it will close in June.

Managing director of Alliance Fish, Dave Winspear, had explored options to save the ailing business, which holds fish auctions in Whitby six days a week and has seen the amount of fish it sells fall dramatically.

It is a practice which dates back to the 1800s when boats would land their plentiful catches. But Mr Winspear said the business, which employed 12 people at its peak, cannot be saved, despite talks with Scarborough Borough Council.

Its four remaining staff will now be made redundant.

Award-winning fish shop, The Whitby Catch and the flat above will also be marketed for sale as part of the winding up of the company.

Alliance Fish, which has been trading for 28 years, had already cut back its operations, which included mothballing the Scarborough Borough Council-backed ice plant which supplies ice to Whitby’s skippers and resigning from its role in Whitby Shellfish Co-operative Limited, which operates the Shellfish Holding Facility.

Mr Winspear said as soon as they announced redundancies, several interested parties expressed an interest in filling the void left by Alliance Fish, so there could still be a market held in the town in future.

He said: “If we can’t make it pay, nobody can. I started working in the local fishing industry when I was 16 and I’m 50 now, it’s very sad. Ten years ago people would come to the market every day from Fleetwood, North Shields, Barnsley, Grimsby as well as Scarborough and Whitby.

“Now there are not sufficient fish to make it worthwhile. A typical amount of fish landed at Whitby is less than a tonne a day which takes less than a minute to sell.

“It’s not a shock. Myself, the staff and directors have been watching this day approach, hoping common sense would prevail regarding fishing opportunities but it hasn’t.

“The product is there to be caught but the opportunitiy is not there, mainly because of bad science, environmental hysteria and political trade-offs. The council wants to stress because Alliance Fish is closing its doors, it doesn’t mean there will be no fish market at Whitby.

“They have assured me there will be some facility in place for the fishermen which is good for the town and tourism.

“The council have been supportive of this industry, I’m sure they will continue to be so and now, they need to be even more so.”

Coun Peter Popple, chairman of Whitby Harbour Board, said it greatly regrets the withdrawal of Alliance Fish from the port and is grateful for all their efforts and support over the years.

He said: “They have helped sustain the fishing industry here over many years against the background of some challenging fisheries’ policies and constraints.

“We are nevertheless continuing to use our best endeavours to maintain the fishing infrastructure and services provided at Whitby and to try to ensure the port and town continue to remain synonymous with high quality white fish and shellfish.

“Not only is the business important to the Harbour Board, but so is Whitby’s heritage as a port, which comes from its historic fishing and boat building sectors.

“We want this to continue alongside other opportunities such as the offshore wind energy and leisure sectors.”

It is not too late to sign our Fight For Our Fleet petition at our offices in Bridge Street – calling for realism to be put back into the fishing industry – or request one from chief reporter Alex Fredman by calling (01947) 829911. We plan to hand it into Downing Street and the European Parliament on behalf of the area’s fishermen.