UK Fisheries confirmed last week that its vessel Farnella (pictured above) will cease fishing at the end of the year, after 22 years of continuous operation, citing lack of quota opportunity and a ‘complete lack of support’ from UK authorities, reports Andy Read.

Built new for the company at Appledore in Devon in 2000, the 40m stern trawler was designed and planned to work in the distant waters that were the mainstay of the Humberside fleet for generations, and started its fishing operations in Iceland, Faroe, Norway and as far afield as Greenland. More recently, however, as these distant-waters opportunities have been lost, the vessel has been forced closer to home, more recently fishing around Shetland.

In a damning critique of the Brexit settlement on fisheries, and the subsequent failure to defend UK distant-waters quotas, Jane Sandell, CEO of UK Fisheries, said: “First and foremost, we’re devastated to be losing a dozen skilled and loyal crew members from the UK Fisheries fleet, and will be doing everything we can to help them find new roles within the industry.

“This is a sad day for us. Farnella is a regular visitor to both Peterhead and Hanstholm. We’ve always had a great relationship with our suppliers in the ports, and we’d like to thank them for their years of support. However, the UK’s failure to negotiate adequate quotas for us in our traditional grounds in the northern external waters has led to this difficult decision.

“We are now left with just one vessel in our Hull-based fleet, the Kirkella. It is now of absolutely vital importance that the government acts to save distant- waters fishing from Hull by negotiating adequate whitefish quotas in the NEZ in its ongoing talks with the Norwegian government.

“Only this can provide a solid basis on which to maintain and grow our industry. Failure to achieve fishing opportunities comparable to those we enjoyed until 2019 will mean the end of a centuries-old industry that was the lifeblood of Hull, and fed our nation through both world wars.”

Hull MP Karl Turner, who has long championed the cause of the remnants of the Hull distant-water industry, said: “This is just the latest example of the government’s betrayal of the English fishing industry. All they had to do was deliver on their post-2019 promises of a ‘sea of opportunity’, but the past three years have seen failure after failure in talks with our partners around the North Sea that could so easily have secured a bright future for fishers in Hull.

“We have just one chance left, and that is the ongoing talks with the Norwegians about whitefish quotas in their waters. If the government fails us again, then there is every chance that 2023 will finally sound the death knell for British distant-waters fishing – an industry that has been the very soul of our community in Hull for centuries.”

The Farnella, with 10 UK nationals out of its 12 crew, has in recent years made most of its landings into Hanstholm, with Peterhead a second port of choice, although the logistics and crew base has remained in Hull. The boat has concentrated on saithe, with an established presence in the German market for the fish, landing up to 80t a trip.

Hull skipper John Musgrave at the helm of the Farnella last week, targeting saithe in the northern North Sea. Built to target distant-water fisheries, the vessel has increasingly seen its catching opportunities reduced.

Cod, haddock and other whitefish landings have generally been sold for local processing when landings have been into the UK.

Farnella skipper John Musgrave, who is from Hull, told FN: “It’ll be tough to see Farnella retired from the UK Fisheries fleet. I’ve been skipper since she was built at Appledore more than 20 years ago. Most of all, though, I’ll be sad not to be working with the crew – they’re an extended family, really.

“These are difficult times for UK fishers, and I hope the government can finally do something to save the last of the distant-waters industry in the North East.”

The loss of the vessel means that from what was in the 1950s the largest distant-water fleet in the world, just a single whitefish vessel is left working from Hull, UK Fisheries’ freezer vessel Kirkella. A significant reduction in its distant-water quotas in Norway and Svalbard since Brexit has seen the vessel tied up regularly in 2022 due to lack of fishing opportunity.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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