AN ILFRACOMBE fisherman claims fuel prices and fish quotas are crippling the North Devon fishing industry – despite a recent report saying more than £1.7 million worth of fish were landed in the resort last year.
Fish stocks in Ilfracombe increased by hundreds of thousands of pounds between 2011 and 2012, according to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
But one local fisherman claims the figures do not show the whole story, saying the industry is suffering worse than it ever has.
The MMO annual UK Sea Fisheries Statistics published this week show fishermen in Ilfracombe landed 1,234 tonnes of fish in 2012 worth £1.77 million. This compares to 1,125 tonnes in 2011 worth £1.6 million.
But Danny Wharton, 19, of family business S&P Fish, which was founded in Ilfracombe in 1986, says while on the surface the figures may look promising, fuel prices and fishing quotas are crippling the industry in North Devon.
“It sounds good but when you invest £3.5 million and the boats cost thousands to run it all starts building up,” he said.
“The fishing is not good up here. It’s worrying times for North Devon in terms of fishing.”
Danny said one of the major problems is larger vessels from other countries with no quotas catching the fish before they reach the North Devon coast.
“They are fishing the grounds to the west so by the time the fish get to us we just have what is left,” he said.
“They are double or treble the size of us and they don’t have the quota issue so the fish go back to their country.”
Despite the hardships, Danny believes fishing will always be a part of Ilfracombe, providing everyone can “get through the hard times”.
Another issue affecting the industry is fuel price increases.
“If the Government keep putting the prices up and quotas keep decreasing it is worrying for all fishermen,” said Danny. “There are so many closed areas and we have got all these protected species, which is killing the industry.”
Danny said there have been times when his trawler has been forced to throw four tonnes of fish back into the sea in just one hour.
He said the MMO’s figures are probably correct in terms of S&P’s turnover, but with costs factored in the industry is struggling.
“We just keep going,” he said. “We have got to make it happen.
“There are still good times but they are few and far between.”