Nearly £8m worth of fish was landed at North Shields Fish Quay last year, new statistics have revealed.
In 2013, UK vessels brought ashore 3,350 tonnes of fish worth £7.6m, an increase on 2011 when 2,843 tonnes were landed worth £6.78m, the annual UK Sea Fisheries Statistics from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has shown.
The most valuable species was nephrops, including prawns, which saw more than £5.9m landed.
Officials at the North Shields Fish Quay Company believe that the statistics show the vitality of the North Shields port and are a direct result of the confidence and investment shown in the area.
Over the last few years, the company has invested more than £9m improving facilities and services, which has attracted further investment from the then One North East, North Tyneside Council and other agencies.
Managing director Jeremy Pritchard said: “North Shields is the largest prawn port in England and Wales.
“The port supports 300 jobs locally and over 1,000 across the whole north east region. It’s the major port on the east coast from Peterhead in Scotland to Brixham in the south.
“One thing misunderstood about the fishing industry is that it’s not all doom and gloom as some people would have us believe. There are pockets of extreme vitality, not least ourselves and Peterhead.
“There is still a very strong industry in this country but it’s heavily regulated or constrained by the Common Fisheries Policy.”
Mr Pritchard said that fish stocks were beginning to rise again, and that the industry could be a lot bigger if quota levels were increased.
There are 20 fishing vessels based at North Shields, with up to 50 more from across the UK and Europe using it as a base between September and March.
Fisherman are able to restock their boats with ice and fuel, as well as sell fish at the market, and Mr Pritchard believes it is that complete package which is why North Shields continues to grow.
“The future is strong and will continue getting stronger,” he said.
“This business is busier now than when it was when I first started here 20 years ago.”
Mr Pritchard added: “There is a lot going on down on the Fish Quay over and above the nightlife. There is an industry quietly working away, making valuable contributions to the economy.
“We have invested £9m in the Quay and sheds to keep all our facilities up to date and modern.
“People have seen it’s not just a hole in the wall, a little place that’s dying on it’s feet. They have seen it’s an area that is worth investing in.
“Fishing is an important industry, it’s vital for this area.”