At the heart of Plymouth’s fishing community
Plymouth Fisheries at Sutton Harbour is viewed by many as the fisheries hub of the region and one of the most important in the UK.
The fisheries complex plays a crucial role in the South West economy, sustaining over 600 direct and indirect jobs through the wider supply chain, and sells more than 6,000 tonnes of fish every year.
It opened in 1995 within custom-designed premises on the eastern side of Sutton Harbour following a substantial investment by owners Sutton Harbour Group in conjunction with Plymouth Trawler Agents.
The complex revitalised the fishing industry in Plymouth and turnover soared from £750,000 a year to £6million in the first two years, continuing to grow ever since.
The value of fish and shellfish landed at Plymouth Fisheries in 2019 was £13.4 million, as reported in the annual UK Sea Fisheries Statistics report published by the Marine Management Organisation.
Plymouth Fisheries is located at the entrance to Sutton Harbour, near the National Marine Aquarium. Ice, fuel and water are available on site and the fisheries complex also houses a number of fish merchants and industry-related businesses including a chandlery.
Every day, up to 40 boats ranging from 16ft line-caught bass fishing boats to 35 metre scallopers berth at 110 metres of landing quays within the sheltered setting of Sutton Harbour, which is protected by lock gates to accommodate vessels up to 4.5 metre draft.
Fisherman can store their landed catch in chilled storage prior to grading to preserve the quality of the product, and all fish landed in Plymouth is electronically graded and weighed during the evening or overnight, prior to sale at the auction held each morning.
Fishermen landing their catch at other ports in the South West and Wales often choose to drive to Plymouth Fisheries to sell their catch to ensure it will sell for the best price, with an average of 60 per cent of fish sold in Plymouth arriving by road.
They do this because Plymouth Fisheries offers a modern electronic auction system, operated by independent auctioneers Plymouth Trawler Agents, which ensures fishermen can secure top prices for their catch.
Every kind of fish and shellfish is sold through Plymouth Fisheries, with the most common including lemon sole, haddock, Dover sole, plaice, whiting, cod, pollock, cuttlefish and scallops.
The success of Plymouth Fisheries has been in large part down to the determination of its owners and operators to ensure the city’s fish market was truly accessible and fair for fishermen.
Working alongside Plymouth Trawler Agents to pioneer the silent digital auction, the fisheries team was able to ensure dealers could log in and bid online from anywhere in the world, and for fishermen to get the best possible price for their catch as the auction system eliminated the potential for dealers to collaborate to reduce their prices.
Sutton Harbour Group has continually invested in developing the facilities at the fisheries site in recent years, and is working closely with stakeholders and partners on future regeneration opportunities.
In 2015, Plymouth Fisheries unveiled a new ice production facility, part of a £1.2million investment in the chill chain facilities which was match-funded by a £470,000 grant from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
This facility enables production of ice on site 24 hours a day so trawlers can load it directly into their vessels.
And in January 2020, a £750,000 fuel and utility services depot opened to help fishermen refuel their vessels more quickly.
SHG’s investment was part-funded by a £375,000 grant from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), administered by the MMO, and included work to upgrade and renew existing fuel facilities, as well as creating new metered water and electricity self-service dispensers.
New fuel tanks, pipe lines, quayside distribution points and modern dispensers supply metered water and electricity with these utilities charged at cost, in line with other commercial UK ports. Fishermen can use a pre-payment system to purchase utilities.
Nick Eggar, Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, said:
“These improvements allow for shorter waiting times for boats between their landing a catch at Plymouth Fisheries and being able to get back out to sea again. The investment demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Sutton Harbour Group to supporting the South West’s fishing industry and ensuring Plymouth remains a major UK fishing port.”
LOCK ACCESS RESTRICTIONS DURING ESSENTIAL LOCK GATES WORK
The first phase of a major repair and refurbishment project on the lock gates in Sutton Harbour is taking place from September to December this year. The second phase will take place from March to June 2024.
During these essential works there will be times of restricted access through the lock which means that the normal freeflow timetable does not apply.
Instead, a lock access timetable will be in operation and is available by following this link to the dedicated project website.
Please also note that the Duty Lock Keeper will also broadcast on VHF CH 12, on the hour from 07.00 to 19.00 daily during the works, updating access times. Vessels are advised to listen to these broadcasts for the most accurate passage times through the lock.
Lock Freeflow Times
There is a free flow period of up to three hours either side of high tide.
For passage through Sutton Lock, all vessels must contact the lock office on VHF CH12 to arrange for lock-keepers to swing the footbridge.