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An uncertain future for Devon’s fishing industry

  • by JW

But hope for local seafood and fishing heritage


We have excellent fish shops in Sidmouth – and a living maritime tradition:

A living fishing tradition in Sidmouth – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Practically all the fish sold in Sidmouth comes from the great South Devon fishing port of Brixham, which is England’s largest in terms of catch:

Brixham is England’s most valuable fishing port – Devon Live


Although, apart from the ubiquitous fish ‘n chips, the Brits are not big fish-eaters:

BBC – BBC Food blog: Why don’t we like fish?


In particular, what you are unlikely to find on sale in Sidmouth is the likes of cuttlefish, as the Brits don’t like eating anything too leggy.


Here’s an interview with fishermen along the Channel back in August 2018l:


From the 90 lobster pots and 300 whelk pots that Harvey has laboriously hauled to the surface that morning, some of the catch will get to London but the rest is either too expensive or out of step with local taste to find a British market.

“I don’t eat them,” admits his brother Chris as they pick over a bucket of whelks, which are said to taste of rubber if you don’t cook them right. With lobsters fetching a tenner each on the quayside and up to £50-£60 by the time they reach London restaurants, Chris says he prefers a steak if he wants to treat the family.

‘We have been hijacked’: fishermen feel used over Brexit | Politics | The Guardian

Futures Forum: Brexit: and exporting shellfish from Brixham


Back in Brixham, this is clearly a problem, with this piece from last month’s Devon Live:


Brixham is England’s top fishing harbour by value of catch landed. The port has almost doubled the value of landings, from £22million three years ago to £40million in 2017 – mostly on the back of a booming cuttlefish fishery.

About 90% of the cuttlefish is exported to EU countries.

Mr Marsden is vice chair of the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and a board member of the Marine Conservation Society.“What happens if we ‘fall off a cliff’ and don’t get a trade deal?” he said. “This market thrives at the moment because it’s able to move fast and transport the fish within hours from here to the end destination. If that can’t happen, it would be very serious for Brixham.”

But Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation, said: “I believe we’ll end up with a deal with our European colleagues because they also want frictionless trade into the UK.

Brexit could leave fish rotting on the quayside – Devon Live


Meanwhile, in Salcombe and Dartmouth, there’s real anxiety from the shellfish industry:

Shell shocked: ‘Lobster capital’ braces for Brexit – BBC News .


There are ways ahead, however:

Planning the ​future of the inshore fisheries – Vision Group for Sidmouth


And as a positive story to finish with, the New Economics Foundation takes us to the other end of the Channel, where real investment is being made in the future of the fishing industry:



How fishers in Eastbourne worked together to build their own community fishing quay

Like so many small-scale fleets across the UK, fishers in Eastbourne have been squeezed to the point of extinction. So, way back in 2014, we began working with fishers in Eastbourne to help shape a proposal for a new fishing quay. The Fishing Quay project would enable fishers to own or lease their own quay in Sovereign Harbour, to give them long-term security and a place where they can store and process their own catch, add value and sell direct to the public. Eventually, the project aims to link this working quay with the local community and businesses, while also providing a visitors’ centre to draw in tourists and customers to find out about local seafood and fishing heritage. And now two weeks ago – five years after we wrote the grant funding application and business case – we broke ground.

Light on the horizon: the story of the Eastbourne fishing quay | New Economics Foundation


photo: octopus and cuttlefish: Fish Market Octopus – Free photo on Pixabay