March 11 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Lowestoft’s age-old status as a fishing port is being swept away in the drive to promote new offshore energy businesses, it has been claimed.
The town’s last remaining fishermen and merchants insist Lowestoft still has a viable fishing industry – but say restrictions imposed by the harbour’s owner Associated British Ports (ABP) are stifling future growth.
Earlier this month, energy giants SSE and RWE Innogy announced plans to make the port of Lowestoft the operations and maintenance base for the new Galloper wind farm.
The proposals will see the remainder of the fish market building – which is still home to three merchants – redeveloped and converted.
ABP is now in negotiation with two of the merchants, William Masterson and Sons and BFP Fish Selling Company, while a third, L G Roberts, will be relocating to another premises in the port within a few weeks.
BFP’s director June Mummery has vowed to stay on the site, arguing that there is enough room for the fish market and the wind farm companies to exist side by side.
However, ABP says the fishing industry has declined and the port now needs to seek new sources of income.
Mrs Mummery called a meeting at BFP last week to discuss the future of the fish market. It was attended by more than 20 people including local fishermen and merchants. She said she hoped to negotiate with SSE and RWE to try to find a way for the companies and fish market to exist side by side.
Lowestoft fish market is the only Defra-designated port in East Anglia and the only place in the region that fishermen can officially “land” their fish. ABP currently charges fishermen with a long-established mooring at Hamilton Dock £490 per quarter. New boats are not offered the quarterly fee and are charged £52.31 every time they enter the harbour.
Businessman Paul Lines owns three fishing boats and eight vessels that serve the wind farms. He said his son Charles, 20, would like his own boat in Lowestoft but it was too expensive, and he felt ABP was actively trying to discourage fishermen from using Hamilton Dock.
“If you are not already in Lowestoft, you are not coming,” he said. “The costs are too restrictive.”
Roger Klyne, 74, has recently spent £1.2m on two 14m trawlers, Radiance and Nicola Anne.
He said: “Lowestoft is absolutely viable and I might be able to prove it with these boats. It is extremely difficult because, as far as I can see, all they want to do is close the fish market down completely.”
ABP spokesman Roger Mr Arundale said: “It is our belief that, with some imagination and flexibility, this move does not need to result in any loss of jobs within the fishing industry.”