Arrangements have been put in hand for vessels that would normally sell their fish on the Plymouth auction to sell their catches at Brixham and Newlyn.

The Plymouth auction closed on Friday, 17 May after Plymouth Trawler Agents ceased trading.

There are hopes in the port that some individual or organisation will step in to take over the auction, but in the meantime Brixham and Newlyn have arranged transport for fish landed at Plymouth to be sold on their markets.

Brixham accepted registrations from about 60 boats before it closed to further applications. Newlyn had accepted registrations from about 40 boats to sell their catches there.

Ed Baker, chief executive of the Plymouth Fisheries and Seafood Association (PFSA), who has been closely involved with the efforts to sell the Plymouth fleet’s catches, said Sutton Harbour staff will support landings at Plymouth, and fishermen can then choose whether they want their fish to go to Brixham or Newlyn.

“There are still a few issues to be ironed out,” he told Fishing News.

“PFSA held a meeting last week to discuss the situation and let fishermen know what their options were. Newlyn is doing transport for free, while Brixham will charge 25p a kilogram. Brixham is full and won’t accept any more boats on its books. We don’t know yet which way everyone is going to go, but that’s the preliminary plan.

“The hope is that someone comes along and says they want to start up a market. All the fishermen say they desperately want there to be a way of selling their fish in Plymouth. There are some good suggestions for innovation and a new model, but what’s needed is someone with the finance to back it.”

Plymouth Fisheries and Seafood Association held a meeting in the port’s auction hall last week to explain to fishermen what their options were. Another meeting is scheduled for 23 May. (Photo: Ed Baker)

He said there had been expressions of interest from some quarters, and Plymouth Council would be supportive if the right person or organisation with the money and a good business plan approached it. “If Sutton Harbour were keen to put them in, then the council would help them as much as they could.

“A few of us have some ideas of what a business plan could look like to make it work with a different model, but we don’t have half a million quid to kick it off, which is around what we reckon would be needed. You’ve got to be able to pay the boats at the end of the first week; then you’ve got staff to pay, and other costs.

“The bottom line is that we’ve put something in place with the support of Brixham and Newlyn to make sure the fishermen can sell their fish somewhere. We are also working with outlying harbours such as Looe to help them with transport if possible.

“We’re going to continue working to make these next few weeks as smooth as possible, in the hope that someone can restart it, and there are still fishermen there to sell fish and maintain a market in Plymouth.” Plymouth merchants will also be hit by the auction closure. They will have to buy from Brixham or Newlyn, but will have to bear the costs of their fish being driven to Plymouth. It is understood that some merchants are beginning to buy direct from vessels.

The Sutton Harbour Group said in a statement that it had been working hard with stakeholders to achieve both interim and long-term solutions to the closure, adding: “The company is committed to working with the fishing industry and its various members to ‘weather this storm’, with the hope and intention of emerging from it together, with a stronger and enhanced fishmarket operation looking to the future.”

PFSA is due to hold another meeting at 6pm on Thursday, 23 May in the auction room to discuss how things are going and the next steps.

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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