Last Fleetwood trawler owner plans to sell his boat

Gary Mitchinson (right) and David Wright on trawler Albion at Fleetwood Docks.Gary Mitchinson (right) and David Wright on trawler Albion at Fleetwood Docks.
Gary Mitchinson (right) and David Wright on trawler Albion at Fleetwood Docks.
One of Fleetwood's last surviving fishermen has hauled in his net for the final time and is selling his boat.

Skipper/owner Gary Mitchinson, 53, comes from a proud fishing family and his father and grandfather before him both went to sea.

The family is part of the town’s fishing heritage, from a time when Fleetwood had one of the biggest fishing fleets in England.

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But the crowded docks have now emptied, in the wake of the Cod Wars which helped kill the industry, and there are hardly any boats left.

Now Gary, of Borrowdale Avenue, Fleetwood, has reluctantly called it quits, after more than 30 years in the business, because he and crewmate David Wright are struggling to make a decent living.

Gary, a father of two, says it is not fishing quotas or even the price of fuel that is making it so tough to make ends meet.

The fishing veteran, who has spent the last 20 years sailing out into Morecambe Bay in the 40ft inshore vessel, Albion, for plaice and roker, said: “The big problem is the price we are getting for catches, they are just too low to make a living from.

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“The fish we catch finds its way across to our main market, a merchant in Grimsby, who processes the fish and sells it on to supermarkets.

“You’d be amazed at the mark-up. The price people pay to buy their fish is way over what we get for catching it.

“Going out to sea is in my blood, I have built up over 30 years’ experience and I am still learning.

“I would love to pass on my knowledge to younger generations but there is no one left.

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“The tragedy is that the fish is out there, there are plenty of roker and plaice stocks in the Irish Sea because hardly anyone is catching it.

Fuel prices used to be a problem but even that has got better. Over a year ago it would cost £90 a day to go out to sea. With falling fuel costs, it is now only £35.

“But even that doesn’t make it viable.

Fishing is still a dangerous job, you’re pitted against the elements. I started to wonder why the hell I was doing it, when I was earning so little.”

Gary already has a potential buyer for Albion, an impressive craft which is now around 60 years old.

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He is also due to start work at Fleetwood docks, operating the lock gates.

His biggest regret is having to let his one crewmate, David Wright, go after many years at sea together.

Gary is married to Paula and their two children, Michael and Louisa, are now grown-up. Michael, 23, works in the banking industry and has never even considered fishing as a viable prospect.

Gary added: “I’m the last of my line and it is very sad, but at the end of the day I have to make a living, and enough is enough.”