LIVELIHOODS have been put at risk as months of storms continue to put a dampener on things for Selsey fishermen.
Tony Delahunty, a Selsey fishermen who is also chairman of a national industry organisation said the storms are affecting people’s livelihood in a place famous for its fishing.
“It is devastating,” he said.
He said the fishermen have only been able to go out a handful of times since Christmas and he believes it is the most sustained and ferocious weather he’s seen in his 40 years in the industry.
“In all my time as a fishermen, never has the weather been so violent and so extreme,” he said.
“We have had bad weather, but this situation is unprecedented and is causing huge disruption to the industry.”
There are about 30 fishermen in Selsey affected by the problem and they could face up to two months’ worth of loss of earnings.
The bad weather also means restaurant owners who usually source fish from the Selsey fishermen are finding other options.
Owner of Casson’s restaurant in Tangmere, Cass Casson, said: “We’ve not really been affected, we’ve still been able to get fish.
“It is actually climbing up in price as the guys can’t go out. We certainly can’t get the range of fish that we’d like but it is not too bad.
“We do try and source from local guys wherever possible.”
Lucy Painter, head chef at Trents in Chichester, said the fish drought had affected them in some ways but not in others.
“As a company we buy a lot of our fish from the bigger fishmongers,” she said. “We do get bits and bobs that are local though.”
She said the specials board was more affected than the everyday menu, and it’s harder to get anything more unusual at the moment.
Mr Delahunty, who is the chairman of The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations is leading a campaign to urge the government to help fisherman across the county.
“After a poor start last year, fishermen are taking another battering and the money has to be found to replace damaged equipment,” said Mr Delahunty.
Even larger trawlers, usually able to go out in bad weather and relied upon to provide continuity of supply to the UK fish market, have only been able to snatch short periods at sea before being forced to return to shore.
Now, because of short supply, some wholesale prices of fish have nearly doubled in just six weeks. There is now concern some fishermen will be tempted to take more risks and go out in weather they normally wouldn’t.
Mr Delahunty said: “All of this amounts to a serious setback for the industry at a time when the boats have enough to contend with, adapting to new marine protected areas, quota reductions and the imminent arrival of a discard ban.
“Plus, with some quota species being seasonal, meaning they’re only allowed to be caught at certain times of the year, it is forcing fishermen to take greater risks, despite already working in one of the most dangerous professions in the UK.
“It is a desperately worrying time. Everybody has families and mortgages to think about and it could be many months until the industry can recover.”