FISH INDUSTRY ON THE VERGE OF COLLAPSE

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CRISIS meetings have been held about the future of the fishing industry in Filey following the departure of two local cobles to Scarborough.

Although fishermen have been taking their boats to larger neighbouring harbours for years, the impact of the recent decline has attracted the attention of local MP Anne McIntosh as it leaves just three commercial boats operating from Coble Landing.

The reduction has pushed up the costs for the remaining operators, who share a tractor and claim that additional burdens, such as an ever-increasing inspection regime, new regulations and extra paperwork, have made their jobs barely sustainable.

One of the three remaining Filey coble owners, Julian Barker, said: “The reason we’re having trouble is there are so few boats left. We’re also being policed to the teeth by seven or eight different agencies. There are more people policing fishing these days than there are left in the fishing industry.

“Traditionally, we went crab fishing in the summer and caught cod in the winter, but the regulations have changed things and we feel very insecure about the future. All we want is to go to sea and catch what we want, and these small boats hardly do any damage to the sea bed compared to the trawlers. It’s all because Europe say our fishing fleet is too big and we’re easy targets.”

Mr Barker said sometimes they were approached by three different agencies on the same day. “There’s a Marine Management Organisation aeroplane that monitors us all the time, and we even get stopped at sea by a Royal Navy frigate.”

He said he recognised some records needed to be kept, but he did not believe small fishing boats required the same burden of bureaucracy as much larger trawlers or that they should be so restricted in their time spent at sea.

Mr Barker, who employs a small crew, said there were 16 to 18 cobles operating from the landing when he started out 30 years ago. “Kids now don’t want to go into fishing because they don’t want the hard work,” he added.

Retired fisherman John Adams said: “Filey basically wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fishermen. One of the main attractions for people is coming onto the Coble Landing and seeing the boats, and if they go it’s going to be a real blow to the tourism industry.”

He said a few years ago there were several boats people went out on, mainly on angling trips, but most operators found Scarborough or Bridlington harbours more accessible. “There’s quite a few who have left for work in Scarborough or Bridlington because they could work with bigger boats. For everything to be up to spec for carrying passengers, it’s quite an investment.”

Mr Adams, who is still involved in the search for the Bonhomme Richard, said it would be “a sad day” if there was no commercial fishing left in Filey, and what was prolonging it at the moment was the summer salmon season.

Holidaymaker Alison Calvert of Castle Bolton, who brings her family to Filey every year, said: “My children love seeing the catch come in. They love seeing a different way of life. It wouldn’t be the same if we couldn’t come down to Coble Landing and watch the fishermen bring in their lobsters and crabs.”

A recent town council committee meeting discussed the possibilities for diversification, and a summit was held last Friday between local fishermen, borough councillor Godfrey Allanson and MP Anne McIntosh, who represents Filey and chairs the influential parliamentary committee on the environment and rural affairs.

Miss McIntosh told The Mercury she was “hugely impressed” by the hard work done by the fishermen and appreciated the expertise of those gathered, including chairman Kath Wilkie. She said: “I want to stamp out unnecessary bureaucracy and inspections, whether home-grown or from abroad.”

She added that there were changes in the pipeline which could benefit Filey, and she believed the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was committed to streamlining the national inspection regime.

She also said plans to divide up the coast into maritime zones would give the industry more regional and local control, and that Filey would be involved in that process.