Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Happy Birthday Plymouth Fisheries - 20 years old today!

The day doesn't just start early at Plymouth Fisheries, it never ends: England's second largest fish market based at the entrance to Sutton Harbour is open 24 hours a day for fishermen to land a catch.

Ensuring constant access for fishermen was an essential requirement when the fish market was created at its custom-designed premises 20 years ago by Sutton Harbour Holdings plc with the support of Plymouth Trawler Agents.

Pete Bromley back in his trawling days

Manager Pete Bromley, a fishermen himself for over two decades, prioritised making life easier for fishermen when he took over the job in 1995.

"Fishing was a cut-throat business for such a long time, dealers collaborating to rip off fishermen was rife, so when we set up Plymouth Fisheries we were determined to make sure we created a fish market which was truly accessible as well as being fair for the fishermen," Pete said.

"I've tried to run the market based on all my experiences of fishing around England, and focus it on getting the maximum price for every good fish that is landed to support the local fishermen, because they are the people who matter most."

Pete worked with Dave Pessell from Plymouth Trawler Agents to pioneer a new electronic auction system at the fish market – which remains the only one of its kind in the entire South West region.
This system enables dealers to log in and bid online from anywhere in the world, as well as ensuring fishermen receive the best possible price for their catch.

The auction system proved such a success that many fishermen landing at ports all over Devon and Cornwall often travel to Plymouth to sell their catch, with up to 60 per cent of fish sold through Plymouth Fisheries now arriving by road.

This has helped Plymouth Fisheries grow dramatically over the last two decades, with turnover rising from £750,000 in 1995 to £18.7 million in 2014.
Today, Plymouth Fisheries sustains more than 600 jobs, and sells 6,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish every year.

Every day, up to 40 boats ranging from 16ft line-caught bass fishing boats to 35 metre scallopers arrive to berth at 110 metres of landing quays in the safe haven of Sutton Harbour, which is protected by lock gates to accommodate vessels up to 5.5 metre draft.

"Boats can arrive anytime they want but the larger fishing boats time their arrival for the free flow period, and most of the smaller boats come in between 7am and 11pm," said Pete. "I start work anytime between 5.45am and 7am, and I'm here til mid afternoon usually."

Every kind of fish and shellfish is sold, with the most common including lemon sole, haddock, Dover sole, plaice, whiting, cod, pollock, cuttlefish and scallops, and quickly shipped out to merchants, retailers and fish production companies.

Meanwhile fishing boats access fresh ice, water, fuel and other supplies ready to return to sea.
"All we have ever had at Plymouth Fisheries is a passion for the fishing industry, and doing all we can to support it," Pete said.

"The entire industry depends on our fishermen so we are fully committed to supporting them. We don't just want the fishing industry in the South West to survive, we want it to thrive."

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Anecdote: As an aside to this story I can remember a significant member of the fishing community in Newlyn saying, "See, it will never happen - who's going to land there?" Well, twenty years on there must be over £3 million pounds worth of fish from Newlyn boats who kand there on a regular basis and that have contributed to the growth of the port.