Plymouth fishing community will 'battle on' despite auction closure

The Plymouth fishing community say they will fight on, despite the final auction taking place today (May 17) under Plymouth Trawler Agents. It’s been cited as “the end of an era” as the fish auctioneer ceases trading at Fish Quay in Sutton Harbour - after running the auction for 29 years.

But, local fishermen say “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, although the major change at Plymouth Fisheries means a “strategic nightmare” for some in the industry. Longstanding fish merchants based onsite will still be selling fresh fish to the public and to local restaurants, despite the auction closure.

However, several fish graders and other auction workers will lose their jobs as of today (May 17). It’s hoped that a new operator will take over the fish auction and Sutton Harbour Group Plc (SHG), which owns the Fish Quay, has said the search for a new auctioneer is underway.

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Plymouth skipper, Steven Walker said: “It’s all very sad and it’s going to be tough for a lot of the smaller ports, but hopefully it's only for a short time and someone will step in and attempt to keep the market going. Whoever comes in to take it over needs to be proactive from the start.

“Neither Brixham or Newlyn want Plymouth to fail as it means a lot more work for both ports. They've a limited number of staff and space to be able to handle the extra volume of fish from Plymouth and the small ports which would normally land at Plymouth. It's all a bit of a strategic nightmare at the moment for all concerned.”

Plymouth Trawler Agents' company secretary, Alison Pessell stepped down today (May 17)
Plymouth Trawler Agents' company secretary, Alison Pessell stepped down today (May 17) -Credit:Katie Oborn

Alison Pessell, who is stepping down from today as company secretary at Plymouth Trawler Agents said it’s a “terribly sad day” for the fishermen that have relied on them for 29 years. However, she highlighted that “fishing has been going on in Sutton Harbour for over 1000 years” and said that “this is just a blip in time”.

She said: “The fishing industry is full of optimists and the fishing industry will continue. We are terribly sad that we will no longer service the industry , we’ve been very grateful for their trade over the years . If you’re old enough to remember The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it should be so long and thanks for all the fish”.

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Fisherman Joe Lynch said the closure of the fish auction was a “shock to the system”. But added: “Where there’s a will there’s a way, it will just involve moving things around a bit.”

Rikki Down, owner of Rex Down Fish Merchants Ltd said there will be some transportation issues with the auction out of action. However, trading for them - as fish merchants based at Plymouth Fisheries - will remain “much the same”.

Inside Plymouth's fish auction, which ceased trading today under Plymouth Trawler Agents
Inside Plymouth's fish auction, which ceased trading today under Plymouth Trawler Agents -Credit:Katie Oborn

Edward Baker is chief executive at the Plymouth Fishing and Seafood Association (PFSA). As a non-profit organisation, PFSA aims to “help Plymouth and other local fishing communities served by Plymouth”.

Edward said: “The Plymouth fishing fleet is still here and I urge everyone to keep buying local fish . For the restaurants, nothing much will change as they buy fish directly from the merchants here on the quay. What will happen for the coming weeks is that catch will be landed here and it’ll be shipped to Brixham or Newlyn, but it will still be bought by the fish merchants and sold to the restaurants.

“The public can still purchase fish from Plymouth Fisheries and I’d urge them to keep coming down to the Fish Quay to buy directly from the fish merchants. Or to go to The Market Plaice fishmongers in town and purchase fresh local fish from there.”

Fish merchants based at Plymouth fisheries include RG Seafood, Rex Down, Moby Nicks, Cracking Crab and Sole of Discretion. The public can buy locally-caught fish directly from those businesses.