Mark Blanchard stories from a Dorset port that’s seeking to the longer term
Regardless of its picture as a picture-postcard resort, Lyme Regis in West Dorset is bucking the south coast pattern, with a thriving and various inshore fishing fleet and new younger blood becoming a member of the trade.
The well-known Cobb – the backdrop in John Fowles’ novel The French Lieutenant’s Girl – was completed in 1826 and varieties the southwest arm of the harbour, whereas the North Wall, operating out from the seaside, protects from the east.
Being sat within the coronary heart of Lyme Bay creates its personal issues with the climate. Within the extraordinarily stormy winter of 2014, Lyme Regis was often featured on nationwide information, with large waves, over 30ft excessive, crashing proper excessive of the Cobb and swamping the harbour. A few of the bigger fishing boats needed to shelter in Exmouth for worry of ripping the mooring bollards off the jetty.
Till lately, the city had its personal harbour grasp, however within the 2019 native authorities restructure, Dorset Council took over the operating of the port, and James Radcliffe, harbour grasp at West Bay, 10 miles to the east, was additionally tasked with overseeing Lyme Regis.
The council is eager to see a stability between leisure craft and business operators within the harbour, and has 15 moorings completely allotted to fishermen and tripping boats. This works properly, with the harbour workforce understanding fishermen’s wants and arranging moorings accordingly.
The presence of Lyme Regis Fishing Faculty, housed in buildings on the Cobb, is a significant factor in sustaining a powerful sense of the significance of fishing from the port.
Diversification in fishing strategies by way of the seasons has been one other key think about preserving the fleet alive. With such diversified inshore grounds, nobody fishery has taken priority. Within the Sixties and Nineteen Seventies, fairly a number of of the smaller boats had been, at instances, inshore trawling for sole and turbot, however this has given solution to the vast majority of boats working static gear.
The Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve, which runs from east of Bridport, previous Lyme Regis, to Beer Head within the west, now has a no-tow coverage.
Potting for crab and lobster has all the time performed an essential half within the native fishery, however with the tough floor within the space being very patchy, smaller strings are labored than additional alongside the coast to maximise effectivity.
Whelking has all the time been a part of fishing out of Lyme Regis, however to not the extent seen in recent times – Far Jap market demand, rising the worth of whelks, has undoubtedly fuelled elevated effort within the space.
As much as that time, whelks had been solely a bycatch or ‘add-on’ to lobster and crab fishing, and had been primarily bought from native shellfish kiosks. Nevertheless, decreased exports resulting from Covid have compelled loads of the whelk effort to modify to netting till markets enhance.
Matt Types, a youthful and enthusiastic fisherman, has labored out of Lyme Regis for the previous 11 years. Matt began his profession skippering mackerel tripping boats, after which moved over to business fishing. He runs the 21ft Cygnus Antelma E 201, inshore trammel-netting for Dover sole and ray. Whelking makes up part of Matt’s catch, working 200 pots, however with market points, the viability has develop into troublesome to depend on.
Matt additionally has the Antelma MCA-coded for seven individuals, permitting diversification into the staycation vacationer market, operating journeys across the bay. His subsequent intention is an improve to a Cygnus 26.
The latest addition to the Lyme Regis fleet is the Buccaneer 33 trawler Hannah Marie BD 33. Arrange for twin-rigging, she got here to the harbour in August this yr. The boat is a three-way enterprise between skipper Oscar Fearnley-Derome, Mark Dack and Stuart Wain.
Mark Dack additionally owns two different boats, a 7.9m Sturdy Boats aluminium cat, Dacky’s Cat E 580, powered by twin 40hp Selvas, which he makes use of for rod and line bassing, and a Twin Seas cat, Holly Rose E 563, which is moored on the river in Axmouth, 5 miles from Lyme Regis, primarily for pursuing Dover sole and plaice.
All small ports have household names synonymous with the native fishing trade, and Lyme Regis isn’t any exception – the title Wason stands four-square across the harbour. The household have fished there for properly over half a century.
John Wason, his three sons Paul, Barry and Chris, and Paul’s son Luke have all labored out of Lyme Regis, though John is now very a lot retired.
Paul began in 1966, aged 11, in an 18ft clinker-built boat, the Jellyfish – aptly named, he says, as she was so loose-nailed, her 5hp Britt petrol engine used to wobble her to bits at half throttle. Paul by no means noticed an issue on this; he was forward-thinking. While a few the opposite native lads labored a number of pots, Paul was prawn trawling!
He towed a 6ft beam trawl behind the Jellyfish, up alongside the North Wall and within the harbour entrance. His greatest day was 40lb of prawns and 4st of Dover sole – at £1/lb for prawns and £8/st for Dover sole, he was a cheerful boy.
At 15, Paul went on to skipper his father John’s 48ft sidewinder Barbarella, which was in-built Bideford to the identical sample as three different boats fishing Lyme Bay. On the time, he was the youngest skipper within the fleet.
After some time, John Wason, wanting on the expense sheet for the Barbarella, determined to exchange her with the strict trawler Frank Robert, which was fitted with a 150hp Rolls-Royce engine – solely to seek out she burned twice as a lot gasoline.
Paul carried on skippering for his father. They purchased the French sidewinder Why Not, powered by a three-cylinder air-start Baudouin. There was all the time an actual artwork to beginning these engines – merely shedding the air may imply a day ashore and misplaced fishing – however, when operating, they had been nice workhorses.
Paul then went on to personal his personal boats, firstly the 24ft clinker-built My Information, which amongst different issues was used for spratting in Lyme Bay. The authorities weren’t eager on the ‘My’ firstly of the boat’s title, because it could possibly be taken to point a ‘motor yacht’, somewhat than a fishing vessel, so she was renamed Spanish Eyes.
He went on to personal two additional vessels, additionally named Spanish Eyes – and in a quirk of destiny, ended up proudly owning the unique Spanish Eyes for a second time.
Paul now owns and runs the Slippery Dick BM 20, an Island Plastics 27, working primarily on lobster in the summertime, and including netting to his portfolio within the autumn. He additionally labored prawn pots till lately however, with the Spanish markets being so risky, has put that on maintain for now.
Transferring down a era, Paul’s son Luke Wason now skippers the Spanish Eyes III, a 10m stern trawler designed and constructed by Offshore Metal Boats of their Barton-upon-Humber yard.
Luke values the significance of steering in the direction of seasonal fisheries, so additionally has the boat arrange for netting and whelking.
Paul’s brother Barry Wason had his flip with the Jellyfish subsequent, however quickly went on to bigger boats, permitting him to fish on the Tennants – a patch of floor 5 miles south of the harbour. The 24ft Devon Crest was his first potting boat, adopted by the 26ft potter Jowell, constructed at Greenslade’s in Poole.
Winters had been enjoyable, they advised me – Barry and Paul used to pair up and go spratting. They by no means acquired wealthy out of it, however discovered working collectively actually pleasant.
In a change of coronary heart, Barry moved over to scalloping, and had the 9.95m Supplier E 87 constructed on the Metal Approach yard on the Isle of Sheppey. Constructed within the early Nineties, she was a sistership to the Kinsman PH 574, additionally constructed on the yard.
Barry had a very good run on the scallops, however firstly of the whelk bonanza 20 years in the past, he purchased the 26ft Buccaneer Star of Hennock E 499 from Exmouth. Having an aft wheelhouse, she was arrange for potting. She additionally carried weight properly – which is what whelking is all about.
Barry then bought the Star of Hennock to Swanage fisherman Jeff Lander, and purchased the under-10m Cornish-built Palatine FY 149, with which he carried on whelking and crabbing.
Eleven years in the past, Barry purchased the 8.5m Cyclone Gray Mist E 2 from Guernsey, and may be very pleased together with her – she is, he says, an ideal boat each for attending to the bottom rapidly and for understanding of a tidal harbour.
He advised me: “After almost 50 years of fishing, I’m undoubtedly seeing modifications – sure, in catch volumes, however they’re certain to fluctuate relying on fishing effort. It’s what’s on the market that’s altering. Steaming again in, I see tuna leaping on the wrecks simply six miles off. We’re getting crawfish up within the nets now – nearly extraordinary right here. It’s a certain signal issues are warming up.”
It was then Chris Wason’s flip to serve his ‘apprenticeship’ with the Jellyfish – nearly a household custom by then. Chris now owns and skippers the New Seeker E 12, the biggest boat within the fleet understanding of Lyme Regis.
The New Seeker is a Toms of Polruan-built 12m metal trawler/ scalloper powered by a Scania DI12 engine. Chris had her constructed, and took supply in November 2012. The New Seeker changed his earlier vessel, Sunseeker, which is now understanding of West Bay, 10 miles up the coast.
Chris and his two crew are likely to work day journeys trawling, touchdown again into Lyme at night time, the place the catch is consigned to Brixham for the next morning’s market.
In dangerous climate, the New Seeker is correct on the boundaries alongside the jetty in Lyme, so Chris steams her to Exmouth, the place there’s much more shelter for bigger boats.
Lyme Regis is unquestionably a port with a future. There’s a very shut bond amongst the fishermen there, together with a large sense of enthusiasm. With new younger blood becoming a member of the fleet, prospects for a thriving well-managed trade going into the following era are wanting good.
This story was taken from the most recent challenge of Fishing Information. For extra up-to-date and in-depth stories on the UK and Irish business fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing Information here or purchase the most recent single challenge for simply £3.30 here.