The deepening fuel crisis is forcing charter skippers out of business, putting some of the best and most productive sea fishing marks out of the reach of anglers.
Sky-rocketing diesel prices and extortionate running costs have resulted in ‘the most difficult year ever’ for operators of sea fishing excursions, leaving many to either downsize their vessels or sell up altogether and look for alternative work.
Those who have chosen to battle on in the hope of the situation improving down the line are being forced to absorb the rising fuel costs, which have doubled since this time last year, in order to keep the bookings coming in.
However, Angling Times can reveal that a growing number of boat owners, many of whom have helped put deep sea wreck fishing on the map, are facing the heartache of selling their boats.
“I’ve been in this business for 38 years and it seems that these days I’m constantly hearing of another boat being sold. This year is set to be a disaster, and if diesel prices go up anymore everyone is going to be in big trouble,” said Alan Tinsley, skipper of the Warrior, based in Liverpool, Merseyside.
“Last May it cost me £460 to fill my boat with 1,200 litres of diesel which would last me around three weeks. Now the cost is £840, but there’s no way I can put the ticket prices up for anglers because I wouldn’t get any business.”
While Alan is just about keeping his head above water, others have chosen to downsize to smaller, more cost-effective vessels in order to concentrate on marks closer to the shore which require less fuel to reach.
Pwllheli, North Wales-based Jason Owen is one such skipper. He said: “I used to have a £100,000 catamaran which was the ultimate charter boat, but this has now been replaced with a single hull vessel. I had to make the move just to keep my business afloat.
“The way things are going, red diesel is set to match the price of standard white diesel by the end of the year. If I’d kept the bigger boat I would have had to charge £800-£1,000 to hire it for a day’s wreck fishing. The fuel alone would have set me back £600. I had no choice.”
If the price of red diesel does reach the predicted levels, then it will undoubtedly spell the end altogether for many skippers.
Some have already had enough, among them Mike Tiller, who used to run the Wyre Princess out of Fleetwood.
“It broke my heart to sell up my business, but I have a family so I had little choice. Basically, I wasn’t making any money at all because of the outrageous costs of running my boat,” said Mike.
“Luckily I had another sideline trade as a tiler which I could fall back on, but there are many people around the country who aren’t so fortunate, and the Government is doing nothing to help them.”