Unique fishing practice under threat

Harvey Holbrook, Shaun Wingham, Andrew Sanderson.
Harvey Holbrook, Shaun Wingham, Andrew Sanderson.

A unique and historic fishing practice is set to disappear from the Bridlington coastline along with the livelihoods of six fishermen.

The practice of shore fishing, believed to be unique to the fishermen along the east coast, will face serious problems when licence changes, made by the Environment Agency, are enforced this year.

Fishermen will be required to watch their nets at all times, something which will prove impractical for shore fishermen whose nets are out 24 hours a day.

Andrew Sanderson, 59, of Bridlington, said: “We can’t physically do that. We’re not going to be able to do anything just sat there if we do not get off the beach.

“If I can’t do that, I won’t be able to carry on. It is everything really.”

Shore fishermen put their nets out at low tide and return at the next low tide to collect their catch, targeting mainly sea bass and Dover sole which is sold locally.

“It is the simplest most friendly way of fishing that has ever been,” said Andrew, who has been a shore fisherman for around 15 years and works near Ulrome.

He said: “You drive up to the beach, go down with a wheel barrow and take the fish out. It is going to be hard for anybody to do their job. I do not know what we are going to do.

“Everybody has sort of said they are not going to do the job if they have to sit there 24-hours a day, there is not enough in it.

“It has really put a spanner in the works.”

For seven years Andrew has run his business, Ocean Rewards, with his wife Karen and sells the fish he catches, along with shellfish and produce from Iceland and Norway. However the growing demand is for locally caught fish.

Graham Ward, chair of East Yorkshire Local Food Network, said: “Their fish are straight out of the coast and straight into a restaurant, it is fresh local food.

“It is part of the culture and heritage. Down the Holderness Coast there seems to be uniquely six men who fish on the shore. This appears to be quite a local custom, I can’t find anyone else who fishes like this - these men are unique.

“If they have to stand there all day watching their nets their businesses will collapse. Why can’t they interpret the law locally?

“The UK Government are killing off the local fishing industry.”

The fishermen: Geoff Tarrant, who fishes at Barmston; Frank Powell, at Skipsea; Harvey Holbrook, near Hornsea; Sean Wingham at Withernsea; Kevin Hodgson, who fishes near Hornsea and Andrew who is at Ulrome, all require a licence to catch salmon and sea trout between March and April, however they mainly catch sea bass.

Harvey, 72, said: “What they don’t understand is where I fish especially, the water gets up to the cliff for about six-hours a every day which means I have to be on top of the cliff and it is virtually impossible to get on top of the cliff where I am.”

Sean, who runs Winghams Fresh Fish in Withernsea, said: “We get people coming from all over the country. People come down and see us catching it on the beach and tell us how good it is.

“People are getting more and more interested in local stuff, where it is from and traceability.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “Netsmen who fish in the Yorkshire and North East Coast Salmon and Sea Trout Fishery are required to remain with their nets at all times, in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the coastal fishery, and also to ensure consistent regulation.

“We understand that some netsmen have reasons for wanting to leave their nets, and the Environment Agency has met with them and looked at all the options.

“However, our investigations have failed to find a feasible alternative to net attendance that would ensure the sustainable management of the fishery in the long-term.

“In order to ensure that nets are attended, all licences issued from the 2014 season will include a condition that requires attendance.

“Attendance is defined as being in line-of-sight, so they won’t need to be on a beach or a boat in dangerous conditions, and licensees will be able to leave their nets for up to an hour for comfort breaks.

“We have been in discussions with netsmen for some time, in order to ensure they understand the changes and to give them ample time to prepare for them.”

A meeting is to be held on Tuesday 4 March between the fishermen and the Environment Agency to further discuss the issue.