Plymouth Fisheries celebrates 20th anniversary as turnover soars by £17.95 million in two decades

Plymouth Fisheries is celebrating its 20th anniversary since opening at custom-built new premises in Sutton Harbour as it is revealed turnover has risen by £17.95million in two decades, and last year was the most successful yet with auction sales up by 6.2 per cent.

The fish market – now the second largest in England – has revitalised the fishing industry in Plymouth since relocating to specially designed new premises in February 1995 following a substantial investment by owners Sutton Harbour Holdings plc.

Annual turnover has risen dramatically from £750,000 in 1994 when the market was based on the opposite side of Sutton Harbour, to £18.7million in 2014.

Plymouth Fisheries has become a key fisheries hub for the South West, sustaining over 600 direct and indirect jobs, and fish landed at other ports is often transported to be sold in Plymouth through the market’s acclaimed electronic auction system, which was pioneered by Plymouth Trawler Agents to ensure a fairer deal for fishermen.

Today (Feb 24th), Plymouth Fisheries’ managers, staff, local fishermen, key customers and supportive local businesses will gather at the market to celebrate the 20th anniversary with a drinks reception and the cutting of an elaborate 5-tier, fish-themed cake designed and created by students and staff at the nearby Plymouth School of Creative Arts.

Pete Bromley, Harbour Master and Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, said: “I was a fisherman myself for 20 years, and it was a cut-throat business with fishermen often sold short. When I joined Sutton Harbour Holdings in 1995 as Fisheries Manager, I worked closely with Dave Pessell of Plymouth Trawler Agents and our primary aim was to ensure local fishermen got a better deal.

“Fish landed at ports all over the South West is now regularly transported to be sold through Plymouth Fisheries because our auction system is so unique in ensuring fishermen can guarantee they’ll receive a fair price for their catch, and up to 60 per cent of the 6,000 tonnes of fish sold in Plymouth every year arrives by road.

“Plymouth Fisheries has clearly made an enormous difference to both the fishing industry and the local economy, and we look forward to the future with ongoing investment by Sutton Harbour Holdings plc in upgrading and improving the fish market premises to ensure it remains one of the best places in the country to land – and to sell – a catch.”

Last year was the best year yet for Plymouth Fisheries, with auction sales for fish landed during the period Jan 1st to Dec 31st 2014 up by 6.2 per cent on the previous year to £17,015,181. In addition, a further £1.7million of scallops and crabs were landed, along with some pelagic species sold directly to processors rather than through the auction. This brings the total turnover for 2014 to £18.7million.

Plymouth Fisheries also enjoyed its best ever month in 2014, with more fish landed in October than in any other month-long period since the market opened. Sales for October exceeded £2.14m, almost double the figure of £1.22 for the same month in 2013, which was thought to be the result of unseasonably warm autumn weather.

Sutton Harbour Holdings plc is investing in updating facilities at the fish market, with £30,000 announced at the end of 2014 to pay for a major upgrade of the external lighting systems, jointly funded by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) through the European Fisheries Fund.

This followed a £1.2million investment in a new ice production and chilling facility, funded with £500,000 from the MMO, which opens officially in March 2015.The modern ice plant will provide an essential service for fishermen, ensuring Plymouth Fisheries can guarantee the provision of ice 24 hours a day.

Plymouth Fisheries also offers fuel and water on site from its base at the entrance to Sutton Harbour alongside the National Marine Aquarium. The fish market is open 24 hours a day – an arrangement pioneered by Pete Bromley in 1995 to enable fishermen to land a catch at any time of the day or night.

The facilities and access have helped ensure the success of Plymouth Fisheries when combined with the electronic auction system run by Plymouth Trawler Agents, which enables dealers to log in and bid online from anywhere in the world.

Dave Pessell, Managing Director of Plymouth Trawler Agents said: “The success of the fishing industry in Plymouth is a tribute to the unstinting support we receive from South West fishing boat owners, fishermen and merchants.”

To help mark the 20th anniversary milestone, Plymouth Fisheries teamed up with the Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a mainstream school in Millbay sponsored by Plymouth College of Art which opened its primary phase in September 2013 and its secondary school in September 2014.

A group of year 7 students aged 11 and 12 from the school’s active cookery club helped to design a commemorative cake, which was baked in the school kitchens by the school chef and acclaimed Plymouth cakemaker Lorna Roberts who works part-time as a teaching assistant at the school.

Lorna, who produces dramatic cakes for weddings and events through her business Ezziecakes, then brought her artistic talents to bear and decorated the 5-tier cake, basing her work entirely on pupils’ designs.

Cakemaker Lorna Roberts said: “I was especially excited to work on this project with the students as my late father Ron was a fisherman, and I remember vividly going to the old market on the fish quay as a child and him sitting me on the fish scales so I could see everything. We always had a fridge full of bass and a sink full of crabs when I was growing up, and I knew first-hand what the realities of life were like for local fishermen.

“Things have changed so much in Plymouth in the last 20 years since the new fish market opened, and this project was a great opportunity to work with the students at Plymouth Creative School of Arts to help teach the next generation more about the fishing industry.

“The students were incredibly enthused about the project, drawing detailed images of fish which I’ve worked from to decorate the cake, amalgamating all of their ideas into the overall design.”

Dave Strudwick, Headteacher of Plymouth School of Creative Arts, said: “Our school is based in Millbay opposite the docks and being so close to the sea means we regularly try to involve our students in learning more about the ocean and real-life industries like fishing, as part of teaching the children more about where food comes from.

“We were delighted to engage with Plymouth Fisheries on this exciting project to create an anniversary cake to help mark the 20th anniversary milestone.”