Fishermen lament Brexit betrayal and aging crews
There is also a lack of interest at Whitby Fishing School, a government-funded college to attract young people to the industry. It offers a 12-month diploma to 16-24 year olds to work in commercial fishing.
After its creation in 2006, the school has regularly filled its annual enrollment of around 40 students per year. In recent years, according to Andrew Hodgson, chief executive officer, that number has halved.
Mr Hodgson says apprentices can expect to earn between £ 15,000 and £ 30,000 a year for their first job depending on the size of the vessel. But the first problem is the lack of jobs, with many larger trawlers unable to secure the fishing quotas needed to make a decent profit.
His concerns are shared by Andrew Locker, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, the professional association of fishermen and vessel operators in England and Wales, and director of his own whitby-based trawler business.
Typically, it employs a 22-person crew with four captains on two trawlers, but since March they have been docked at the port because it has not been able to secure the quotas required to fish. He says Brexit has also removed the possibility of trading quotas with EU vessels.
“There is a viable industry out there,” he says. “99.9% [of] fishermen voted for Brexit because they thought they were going to rule their own waters. But because of the disastrous deal we made, there is no way we can rebuild our coastal communities and make a viable appeal for the recruitment of young people.
He hopes that when the transition period expires in 2026, the government will be able to negotiate a much better deal with the EU.
His wishlist remains the same as when he and so many others voted for Brexit in the first place: control of UK territorial waters and the ability to govern who fishes there.
Until that is delivered, he warns, the industry will continue to fail to attract new blood.