End of era nears for once-great fishing port
Published: 13th Jan 2010 11:43:14
Once Great Yarmouth was a world-famous herring fishing port which was home to 10,000 fishermen each autumn.
They came from all around to get a share of the riches which were being hauled out of the waters off the Norfolk coast in huge quantities.
But now the 1,000-strong fishing fleet is long gone, as is the sea of baskets filled with herring which once crowded the docks.
Now Great Yarmouth has just one full-time professional fisherman and later this year he will turn his back on the industry he loves because of falling prices and strict quotas.
When Jason Clarke took up professional fishing 22 years ago, he looked forward to spending the rest of his working life earning a living from the sea off Great Yarmouth.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, uncles and brother, his was to be a life lived at sea.
"If you're a fisherman you've got to have it in your blood. I just didn't ever want to do anything else," Mr Clarke said from the quay where he moors his boat, the Eventide.
"It is a lovely way of life. But I've just had my fill of it - I never thought I'd hear myself saying it. It's all I thought I would do."
The 39-year-old's reluctant decision to stop work as a full-time fisherman marks the end of a tradition in Great Yarmouth which goes back centuries.
Historians say fishermen first inhabited the spit of land, formed by silt deposited at the mouth of the rivers Bure, Waveney and Yare, in the 13th Century.
But it was when schools of herring started to come closer to shore on their annual migration that Great Yarmouth found itself transformed into a world fishing capital.
The fishery was at its peak in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. By 1913 the Great Yarmouth fleet had grown to 1,000 and, with 10 men crewing each boat, 10,000 worked the fishery.
Another 5,000 "fisher-girls" - mostly from Scotland - gutted the fish once they were landed.
Ronnie King, 86, started fishing in 1937 when he was 14.
"It was an incredible scene at Yarmouth to see the ships landing and horse carts being taken down to the ships to be filled," said Mr King, who now lives in the nearby village of Ormesby St Michael.
"It was a huge industry."
Watching from the banks of the river Yare, Bob Burman spent much of his childhood entranced by the comings and goings of the fishermen.
His grandfather was a trawlerman on a sailing barge, his father was a box maker for the fishing industry and his mother sold oil skins to the fishermen.
"On Saturdays we would go down to the fish wharf to get fish for free. Any that fell on to the floor the kids would get them," Mr Burman, now 62, said.
"The atmosphere was unbelievable."
But, like in many fisheries, advances in fishing techniques meant Great Yarmouth's days of prosperity were numbered.
Sailing drifters were replaced with more modern steam-powered vessels and new types of nets allowed fewer fish to get away.
Mr King said: "It got so that one ship could catch as many fish as 50 drifters could in one night."
Not only were the fishing techniques decimating stock numbers, herring also began to fall out of favour with buyers.
Birdseye set up a plant in Great Yarmouth in about 1950 and the huge success of the humble fish finger meant herring was no longer as popular.
About 30 Scottish boats fish most of the quota allocated now but the domestic herring market is almost non-existent.
Mr Clarke, from Sea Palling on the Norfolk coast, has long relied on other species, such as cod, to make a living but he has continued to catch a small amount of herring.
Strict quotas on other species have combined to make it too hard to make ends meet, Mr Clarke, who keeps his boat in Gorleston, which neighbours Great Yarmouth, said.
"Boats aren't cheap to run, it's just made it impossible," he added.
So now he is leaving one of the region's oldest industries to move into one of its newest - wind energy.
Mr Clarke intends to keep fishing in his spare time - he maintains stock levels are high - but it will no longer be his main occupation.
In his new job, which he expects to start in the summer, he will spend his working week ferrying turbine engineers out to the Greater Gabard wind farm on fast catamarans.
"It's very sad for all our family but (they) know it's the right thing for me to do because it's been so stressful," he said.
Mr Burman, a guide on the Lydia Eva, a restored steam drifter which now serves as a museum for the herring fishery, said: "It is a sad situation when you consider the buzz we once had in Yarmouth.
"It was the greatest herring fishing port in the world."
At 00:52:31 in SportDavid Moyes kicked off his Spanish managerial career by guiding Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw at struggling Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night.
At 00:49:25 in SportTony Bellew beat Nathan Cleverly in a split decision after a gruelling 12-round fight on Saturday night, avenging his 2011 defeat.
At 00:15:29 in WorldPhotographers in search of a dramatic landscape are often drawn to extreme regions of the planet. One of those is Neil White, whose latest project, When The Wave Comes From The Mountain, documents an area of the Himalayas in Nepal and across the border in India.
At 00:08:02 in HealthStaff cuts and bed shortages are leaving mental health services "under unprecedented strain", says the nurses' union.
At 00:07:53 in HeadlinesIt should be easier to remove the degree-awarding powers of universities that fail to meet academic and consumer standards, a report by Which? has said.
At 00:04:06 in WorldThere is a little corner of Jerusalem that is forever India. At least, it has been for more than 800 years and its current custodian has plans for his family to keep the Indian flag flying for generations to come.
At 00:03:33 in WorldThere have been more than 200 cases of polio in Pakistan since January - the first time infections have reached this level in nearly 15 years. Despite this, not everyone wants their children to be vaccinated.
At 00:02:22 in SportEvery game from next year's Fifa Women's World Cup in Canada will be broadcast by the BBC.
At 00:01:48 in HeadlinesMore investment is needed in mental health services, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland.
At 23:57:27 in SportWhat defines a great team?
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. End of era nears for once-great fishing port [Online] (Updated 13th Jan 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/10299/End-of-era-nears-for-once-great-fishing-port [Accessed 23rd Nov 2014]
News In Other Categories
Labour is urging the government to ensure people taking advantage of new pension freedoms next April are not ripped off by financial firms.
David Moyes kicked off his Spanish managerial career by guiding Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw at struggling Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night.
Welsh golfer and Ryder Cup winner Jamie Donaldson can now add 'cat rescuer' to his repertoire.
Google has unveiled a project that offers web users the option to pay to visit sites rather than see adverts.
Staff cuts and bed shortages are leaving mental health services "under unprecedented strain", says the nurses' union.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com