A trawler owner is hoping to regenerate the town’s fishing industry and help make Whitby one of the biggest shellfish ports in the UK.
But Arnold Locker, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), believes Scarborough Borough Council has not done enough before the town’s fish market, run by Alliance Fish, shuts its doors on 27 May – and will take the industry back 30 years.
Mr Locker’s Whitby-based firm, Lockers Trawlers Ltd, has just spent £90,000 refurbishing their newest vessel Pamela S at Parkol Marine making it suitable for trawling.
It will employ four people and will also take apprentices from the town’s fishing school.
Skippered by David Frampton, it will join Whitby’s fleet working crab pots during the day for crab processor L&W Shellfish but will trawl at night, landing fresh fish into Whitby on a daily basis to be sold on the local market.
But once the fish quay is vacated, there will be no auctioneer to sell their fish, no scales for them to weigh their catch, no boxes for the fish, no forklift truck to lift them and nobody to calculate wharfage when fish is landed onto the quay, as all of this was done by Alliance.
Ice will also have to be brought from Scarborough by road because the ice plant has shut.
Mr Locker also claims the council has not responded to a bid by himself and Coastal Shellfish Ltd based in Bridlington to take over the running of the town’s shellfish holding facility, which has also been wound-up.
“It’s going to be absolute chaos,” he said. “To not have a facility at all is catastrophic.
“People are not doing enough to help. Over the years they have had a hell of a lot of money out of Whitby fishermen.”
Mr Locker said he has done a lot of work with Coastal Shellfish Ltd who are very interested in taking over the shellfish holding facility but couldn’t find anyone to talk to at the council.
He said he wasn’t interested in the money, but in reviving Whitby’s fortunes by getting the shellfish facility up and running for lobster, crabs, velvet crabs and prawns, taking it a step at a time.
“Back in the 60s not a lot of people know this but Whitby was the top shellfish port in England. I would like to invest in more crab vessels for Whitby. I can see a really bright future in shellfish,” said Mr Locker.
Andrew Pearson, auctioneer at Alliance added: “If nothing is done quickly fishermen are going to make their own arrangements for selling their own fish and at that point the market is effectively dead because we will never get the fishermen landing back on to the fish market which is the best place for fish to be sold.
“They will realise selling fish themselves, there is no expense incurred and they will all have money in their pockets with no expenses, but with a lesser value being placed on their fish than it is actually worth.”
In a joint statement Whitby Harbour Board and Scarborough Borough Council said they have received one formal offer to run the fish market and a number of expressions of interest in the shellfish holding facility which they will have to put out to tender.
In the meantime the harbour board and council are asking a party to run the shellfish holding facility in the short term.
The spokesman added every effort is being made to provide the infrastructure required to allow the fishing industry to remain an integral part of the town.
He said the council had been restricted in taking any formal action until after the official decision by Alliance Fish Whitby Ltd to give notice, but is now taking steps to address the interested parties in compliance with the rules on public procurement.
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