FISHERMEN are facing the worst winter in memory, leaving stocks low and putting their livelihoods at risk.
Heavy rain, strong winds and high tides have made it difficult for them to go to sea, and left many of their fishing materials damaged.
Monteum Ltd, based at Fisherman’s Wharf, in Brighton Road, Shoreham, sells its fish to both the retail and wholesale markets through its fish shop, as well as exporting to Europe.
Chairman Jim Partridge said they was very little local fish available at the moment, following an horrendous December and difficult January.
“We are still functioning, but with limited choice,” he said. “We are dependent on farmed fish at the moment, but we still keep the fish shop as good as we can.”
He believes the fishing industry in Sussex has already lost in excess of £1million this year.
He added: “At Monteum, I reckon we have lost £100,000 at least since the beginning of the year, having had an horrendous December as well.
“I have never known it so bad and I started fishing 57 years ago, when I was eight years old.
“There is nothing we can do about it, we just have to sit back and hope it will change. You have to grin and bear it.”
He said he was glad he had been in the business so long, because it helped to ride the storm.
“My lads are still being paid the basic wage, so they are still okay, but a lot of fishermen have earned nothing since Christmas, and lost gear on top of it,” he added.
Stephen Garrard, 50, of Penhill Road, Lancing, has been in the fishing industry since he was 18. He fishes at Shoreham Harbour and sells to Monteum. He said: “It’s the worst year I have ever had – from last April to now.
“We had such a cold winter last year, the cuttlefish never turned up until late and it was so hot in the summer, the fish didn’t know what they were doing.
“It’s just absolutely awful. I have got my whelk pots out there and they are just getting damaged, most of them will have to be thrown away.”
Mr Partridge also raised concern about fishing materials which have had to be left out at sea.
“The lobster pots have been in the sea since last year,” he added. “The problem now is that the ropes will be chaffed, so it may be difficult to get them back.”
The problem has been the continual bad weather, without the settled periods needed to retrieve the nets.
Normally, periods of bad weather during December and January are broken up and during the settled spells, more fish is caught because the stocks get stirred up.