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£1m catamaran launched at Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 07:18 17 September 2009 | UPDATED: 13:45 06 July 2010

With Yarmouth's last full-time fisherman about to give up his struggle to make a living, the launch of a £1m catamaran has symbolised fresh hope for a once great industry.

With Yarmouth's last full-time fisherman about to give up his struggle to make a living, the launch of a £1m catamaran has symbolised fresh hope for a once great industry.

On a Gorleston quay that was packed with fishing boats as recently as the 1990s, former fisherman Paul Lines, 51, yesterday christened his new Vigilante catamaran, Sea Weasel, following its voyage from builders Lyme Boats in Exeter.

The 16.5m craft will not be plying the North Sea in search of cod, but joining his other two vessels, both former fishing boats, servicing windfarms around Britain.

Mr Lines, who is still chairman of Anglia Fishermen's Association, went into the industry after he left school, but reluctantly turned his back on full-time fishing in 2004 as EU quotas increasingly squeezed profits.

He set up his new company, Enviroserve, to serve windfarms and its rapid expansion means he now employs nearly 20 people, mostly ex-fishermen, and achieved a turnover of nearly £1m last year.

Testament to his success is that at Christmas, he will be taking delivery of a second Vigilante catamaran.

He said: “As recently as the mid 1990s there were 14 full-time fishing boats on the quay in Gorleston catching £1m worth of fish a year.

“But the EU quotas have forced people out of the industry. It is a crazy situation when you catch a box of cod and have to throw a box of dead skate back because you don't have a quota for them.”

While quotas had the laudable aim of conserving fish, he said they were completely out of proportion to the stocks in the sea.

Richard and Jason Clarke, of Sea Palling, made national headlines last year as being the last two full-time fishermen in Yarmouth, a port that once had boats stretching across the harbour, but Mr Lines confirmed Richard had now left the industry and his brother was preparing to do so.

Mr Lines, a father of three, whose son Charles, 15, is set to follow him into the business, said: “It is exciting to be involved in an emerging industry instead of hanging on to a dying one.

“We started doing environmental survey work ahead of windfarm construction and that has expanded to other functions including transferring engineers on to site and supporting operations such as cable-laying.”

Mr Lines started his company during the construction of Scroby Sands windfarm, off Yarmouth, but now finds work around Britain and even on the continent. Sea Weasel, skippered by former Lowestoft fisherman Ben Stebbing, 29, will leave on Saturday for Thanet, in Kent, where a windfarm is under construction.

Mr Lines, whose vessels were also employed during outer harbour construction, said: “So far, we have mainly employed ex-fishermen, but we are now also looking for younger people to train up - we are always looking for sensible, hard-working people.”

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