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The last fishermen in Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 08:48 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 30 June 2010

It was a scene that has been witnessed countless times along Great Yarmouth's seafront and quays.

But the sight of the fishing boat Eventide chugging its solitary way out to the North Sea yesterday was a sad reminder of the decline of the town's once-thriving fishing industry.

It was a scene that has been witnessed countless times along Great Yarmouth's seafront and quays.

But the sight of the fishing boat Eventide chugging its solitary way out to the North Sea yesterday was a sad reminder of the decline of the town's once-thriving fishing industry.

For as Richard Brookin steered the vessel out of Gorleston harbour with his deck hand Brian Watt they inherited the title of becoming Yarmouth's sole surviving full-time fishermen.

The mantle of being the town's only dedicated fishermen is in stark contrast to scenes of more than a thousand trawlers and drifters moored up in the town 100 years ago.

Yarmouth's fishing heyday and the town's linked prosperity was based on its large fleet chasing herring, also known as the silver darlings. The industry started its decline in the 1920s and 1930s.

Mr Brookin, 31 and from Yarmouth's King Street, has taken command of the 9m long diesel powered Eventide after he hired it from its owner Jason Clarke.

For the last year Mr Brookin helped crew the vessel and he is well used to making 14 hour journeys into the North Sea to catch cod in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

As well as chasing shoals of cod, the Eventide will also be used for lobster potting and catching Dover sole throughout the year

In December Mr Clarke, from Sea Palling and who has spent 22 years working out to sea, told the EDP he was relinquishing his vessel because he claimed strict EU fishing quotas were stifling his trade.

But Mr Brookin said that he was optimistic about the boat's future as EU quotas were being loosened next month so he could catch three tonnes of cod in March.

He has also noticed that fish stocks seemed to be thriving off Yarmouth's shore - a fact that he puts down to fish returning to the area once more to feed.

Mr Brookin, who has worked on survey ships and offshore wind farms, said: “The fishing has been unbelievable. I have never seen so many fish. It has nothing to do with the EU quotas - in fact they have not helped fishing at all.

“I love the sea and fishing is a lovely life. The more you put into it the more you get out of it. There is no turning back if there is a bit of bad weather.”

His new deckhand Mr Watt, 32 and from Caister, had previously been a ceiling fitter in London and had some experience of working on boats.

He said: “I would rather be at sea than be stuck on a building site. I am really enjoying working on the Eventide.”

Mr Clarke had run the Eventide with his brother Richard who left the boat last year. They were the fourth generation of their family involved in the fishing industry. Both brothers have gone on to work for the offshore industry.

Mr Brookin said he was considering taken on a young deckhand. Anyone interested can email anthony.carroll@archant.co.uk

Great Yarmouth was once the most important herring port in the world.

It reached its peak in the early 20th century with about 1,000 vessels bringing 2,000 million fish ashore in one season.

More than 6,000 seasonal workers, the “Scots fisher-girls, would pour into Yarmouth to gut and salt down fish in barrels ready for the export market to Norway, Soviet Russia and Germany.

Yarmouth's most successful year was 1913 but the industry started to go into decline with the outbreak of the first world war.

Efforts were made in the 1930s by the Yarmouth Area Committee of the Herring Board to restrict herring fishing times to help sustain market prices but the slump continued.

The last herring drifters left in the 1970s.

By the 1980s only about 20 fishing boats remained in Yarmouth.

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