New £250,000 Whitby lobster boat launches on choppy post-Brexit waters

It should have been plain sailing but the double whammy of Brexit and Covid means the launch of the latest addition to Whitby’s shellfishing fleet has been anything but smooth.

“Our Henry” is owned by business partners Terry Pearson and Luke Russell. Mr Pearson is the merchant for the local shellfishing fleet, while Mr Russell will skipper the catamaran, the first new boat to join the Whitby fleet for a decade, along with two other crew and a trainee.

By coincidence both Mr Pearson and Mr Russell have new-born sons named Henry - they were born within days of each other in December - meaning the naming of the new boat was a no-brainer.

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Delivered a couple of weeks ago the potter has been undergoing sea trials, but should make its first fishing trip later this week.

Whitby has a new lobster fishing boat ' Our Henry' Business partners Terry Pearson and Luke Russell on the vessel in Whitby Picture: Richard Ponter

“Luke and I have been in business since 2015,” said Mr Pearson. “He approached me and asked me what I thought about having a new boat built.

“We expected it to be finished in June 2020, which would have allowed us a full summer to fish with it.

“Then with Covid, the build was delayed, and it has only just arrived when we are in the middle of the winter fishery, when we are dependent on whether the weather is good enough to allow us to go.

“Then of course there has been Brexit on top and it has been a bit of a damp squib.

Business partners Luke Russell and Terry Pearson on the vessel in Whitby harbour Picture: Richard Ponter

“I am ever the optimist and I am hopeful we will be able to continue to sell the product.”

Last week trucks from Bridlington joined a protest in London to draw attention to post-Brexit red tape which is creating “unworkable” delays for producers exporting shellfish to their main markets in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Mr Pearson said customers still wanted shellfish, but it’s “just extremely difficult to get it to them”.

He said: “Because of the difficulties people that normally export have either stopped completely or are doing it on reduced quantities.

Our Henry in Whitby Harbour Picture: Richard Ponter

“Some of the boats can only go out selected days because some days the market is not available. At the moment I’ve said we don’t really want crabs on a Friday.

“It’s not necessarily Brexit, it’s Covid as well. Some of the companies we are dealing with are working with reduced staff and reduced customers as well - the likes of the restaurants they sell to are closed as well, so there are lots of different factors.

“Everyone is just on tick over - the fishermen don’t want to bring their pots ashore, as it is an awful lot of time and effort.

“Whereas they would go out four or five times a week, they are maybe going once or twice to turn the pots over and check they are OK.”

They were going to sell their previous boat Codonger Too, but another skipper said they would be interested in taking it on.

“We’ve managed to sort the finances and keep both boats running out of Whitby which is very positive,” he added.

Mr Pearson said he was not surprised by the much criticised fishing deal with the EU. “I think we always knew that the fishing industry would be used as a bargaining tool,” he said.

However he believes “there is no reason why it can’t be worked out eventually”.

The £250,000 twin-hulled fishing boat, was built in Ramsgate, and has a lot of deck space. for carrying lobster pots. Traditionally boats fished close inshore, but “Our Henry” could potentially work 20 miles or more offshore.

Around 25 boats fish out of the port which according to accounts maintained by the monks was trading in fish as far back as 1394