Weymouth is one of Britain’s busiest fishing ports
A (very) brief history
There has been a fishing port at Weymouth since Roman times (strictly at Radipole via the River Wey). The Port moved to Melcombe Regis in the mid-13th Century, trading spice and other goods. A century later, the port was the entry point for the Black Death. The two towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis united in 1571.
In 1635, the Ship Charity carried pilgrims to the new land of America, founding Weymouth in the present-day state of Massachusetts. Weymouth made many contributions to history over the centuries. Probably the biggest was embarkation of over 500,000 troops heading to the Normandy Beaches in WW2. Today, we are highlighting Weymouth fishing fleet.
Fishing in Weymouth
The Sea near Weymouth is relatively sheltered, tending to circulate (nutrients) more or less gently around the Bay. The habitats range from sea grass meadows and kelp, to rocky ledges, gravel dunes and erosion beds. This mix of environments couples with the stream of food sources from the English Channel. This sustains a rich and varied marine fauna.
Protecting the Environment
Much of the Dorset inshore area falls under the Marine Conservation Act. As a consequence, the impact of more aggressive industrialised fishing methods has been minimal. Most inshore fishing uses a more traditional style, with smaller boats, having pots, traps, hand-lines and static nets.
Mirroring commercial activity, Sea-angling from Chartered boats has become a major local industry. The sport contributes a significant portion of the National £1.3 Billion National sea fishing recreational industry. There are 11 local charter boats and thousands of anglers visit Weymouth every year for wreck and deep sea angling.
Weymouth also houses the second CEFAS Laboratory (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). Here, the principal work invlolves operating the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI). Additional work includes that for numerous UK and International organisations. The FHI monitors and enforces restrictions on fish and shellfish imports.
The Fishing Fleet
In a recent survey in 2018, there were 39 fishing vessels in the regular fleet. Of these, 36 were under 10 metres and average age was 28 years. Most were using nets, traps, pots or lines (for bass). Weymouth lies close to Poole, Brixham, good fishing grounds and Ferries to the EU. This makes the port popular for numbers of “nomadic” crabbers and whelkers. Over 40 species of fish and shellfish are common sights at Weymouth. The annual catch value is about £4 million pa and weighs about 8000 tons. Crabs and whelks make up about 85% of the total weight. The smaller boats tend to catch more bass.
Fish transport and processing
Normally, Live crabs, scallops and lobsters are transhipped by lorry (e.g. MacDuff’s) to Poole for ferrying abroad. Whelks typically serve Asian markets. Weymouth is the second largest port for landing line-caught bass, while the processing of the catch occurs on Portland before auction in Brixham. Major UK fish processors benefiting from Weymouth catches are Samways (Bridport), Dorset Fish and Shellfish (Poole), MacDuff (Mintlaw) and Weyfish (local).
There has been a Fish Market in Weymouth for 150 years. In recent times, Weyfish took over the building and renovated throughout. Up to 40 species of fish and shellfish may be found, depending on conditions and season. Specialties include fresh bass, mackerel, pollack, plaice, oysters, clams and lobsters. The company owns 3 boats in the Weymouth fishing fleet (Ellie Ann, Shaman and Cheetah Cat). The catch is fresh and never frozen. Our neighbours tell us the bass is to die for – superb quality.