The Welsh fishing industry has received a boost with the official opening of a central fish handling, storage and marketing facility (Hub) inBurry Port, Carmarthenshire.
Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, and European Programmes visited the Hub, which is run by the South Wales Fishermen’s Seafood Supplies Ltd and is aimed at developing new markets and securing a higher price for the fishermen’s catch.
The facility has been made possible following the success of the company’s parent organisation - the South & West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd (SWWFC) - in securing 100% funding from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), a total of £122,766 (75% EFF and 25% from the Welsh Government). As a result South Wales Fishermen’s Seafood Supplies Ltd has commenced trading.
The Hub handles a range of wet fish species including Sea Bass, Sea Bream, Mullet, Pollack, Mackerel, Skate, Plaice, Cod, Monkfish and Turbot.
The fish is supplied by local fishermen who are all members of the Wales the True TasteFood and Drink award-winning SWWFC and who operate from Cardiff to Cardigan.
The Hub hopes to increase the financial fortunes of its members, buying the fish from the fishermen at an agreed price - higher than they currently achieve when they individually sell through fish auctions.
The Deputy Minister said: "The Welsh Government is delighted to support such an important initiative which will undoubtedly help Welsh fishermen meet the challenges faced by the industry in today’s global market place.
"The Hub is an excellent example of co-operation, as it is led by the fishermen themselves and enables them to tap into markets previously beyond their reach. Major multiples, for example, require a regular and consistent supply of fish in quantities far beyond what the individual fishermen can support, but by combining efforts this demand can be fulfilled."
The fishermen either bring their catch direct to the Hub or arrange collection from designated points within the SWWFC area so it can be delivered to customers in the freshest possible state.
The fish is then sold either through fish auctions, or direct to the local market including restaurants, hotels and fishmongers, and Welsh major multiple retailers.
SWWFC member Mike Howells has fished from Burry Port for 35 years along with his two sons using a variety of fishing methods from rod and line to tangle netting in his 8.5 metre Cheetah catamaran.
Mr Howells said: "This facility has been long awaited by the fishermen in the area. It not only enhances the price returned to the fishermen for their high quality product, but also provides a service to local restaurants and hotels, allowing them to prepare fresh, quality, locally caught fish."
In addition the Hub is developing a scheme to handle by-catch/waste produce for the bait market, which includes Dogfish, Gurnard and Ray Backs.
Another aspect is the development of new markets for different fish species, which in turn helps to ensure a continued demand for the inshore fleet operating within the SWWFC area.
The SWWFC is keen to highlight the ethical and sustainable method of line caught fish, and has introduced a bass tagging scheme which allows consumers to identify the fishing vessel and fishermen which caught the fish via the internet at www.welshlinecaughtfish.org.uk