Bridlington has a rich heritage when it comes to the fishing industry and this continues to this day. The work of the harbour, the industry and the individuals that the industry supports are nationally recognised for their contributions.
The nomination as Port of the Year in the recent Fishing News Awards, only missing out to the eventual winner Peterhead – which is seen as the UK’s biggest fishing port with 35,000 boxes of fish landed weekly, shows the esteem and respect that Bridlington has throughout the industry.
Of the five shortlisted finalists, Bridlington was the only shellfish port – underlining its status as the country’s premier shellfish port.
Official figures from the Marine Management Organisation show the value of landings into Bridlington stand at over £9.5 million in 2017, proving what a vital sector the fishery is for the town and the East Riding.
With over 40 vessels based in Bridlington Harbour, these individual small businesses create employment for approximately 200 people.
Add to this the staff of the landing companies who handle market and distribute the landings and the total gets to approximately 250.
Independent Shellfishermens’ Cooperative is one of the landing companies based on the harbour. The company’s secretary Jo Ackers told me that as a ‘forward thinking and progressive company’ it sees the importance in the future and the long-term durability of the industry. This is why they have, in recent years, assisted some young skippers to get new vessels and set up new independent businesses.
All the landing companies have invested heavily in storage facilities for their catch, with filter systems, chiller systems and pumping equipment to ensure the landings stay as fresh as possible.
Bridlington Harbour Commissioners are planning to upgrade the utility facilities on the South Pier to provide a larger power supply and better fresh water access for the vessels and storage areas.
Yvonne Webb of Bridlington Shellfish explained to me that, in Bridlington, the company feels that they and industry are able to adapt to the current markets and be proactive in seeking new markets. That they have a fleet to be proud of here and the success of the port reflects this.
The importance of the industry to the area is reflected in the fact that the council is the only local authority in the country to have a specialist business adviser for those working in fisheries to utilise. This is being looked at by other areas as the way forward in order to assist the sector to grow and diversify.
The Holderness Fishing Industry Group, based in Bridlington, also has a research vessel used for important scientific work to assist the sustainability of the local industry, another unique feature for UK fisheries.
Access to European Funding, through the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund, has assisted vessel owners to make improvements to boats in order to improve safety at sea and replace fishing gear with modern pots that protect the marine environment more.
To date, approximately £1 million of funding has been accessed with more projects coming forward all the time. The funding requires an amount of private match funding to go with it.
The fishing industry in Bridlington is a real success story but is often forgotten because it’s always been there.
Its importance cannot be underestimated and it is vital that the industry continues into the future to ensure that jobs are maintained, the harbour remains vibrant and that the local economy benefits from Bridlington’s hidden success story.