A small fishing boat makes its way back towards Scarborough harbour on a cold winter’s evening as low clouds roll in, hinting of stormy weather ahead.
Fisherman have been gathering their nets in these waters for centuries. Initially it was all about self-sufficiency with the boat owners paying tithes to the nearby monasteries for the right to fish the waters.
It continued as a cottage industry until the 1830s when the arrival of the railways revolutionised the industry and transformed the town.
With the ability to transport fish to further afield, trawlers from the south of the country sailed into the sea off Scarborough and very quickly it became the centre of fishing in the North East.
As the appetite for fresh fish grew, the surplus, which would have once been disgarded, found new markets in the country’s industrial heartlands.
By the 1870s, Scarborough’s fishing fleet boasted 40 cobles compared to just six three decades earlier. However, the good times weren’t to last.
The Scaborough fleet was slow to embrace the technology which allowed the industry in Hull and Grimsby to boom, but worse was to come with the arrival of the First World War.
On September 16, almost all of the town’s trawlers were sunk by a German U-Boat. Eleven boats were caught in the attack, with just one trawler managing to sail to safety.
There were other U-Boat incidents along the East Coast, but none proved quite as devastating as the one at Scarborough, which the fishing industry never really recovered from. By 1943, Scarbrough had just three working boats, compared with the 191 which were sailing out of Hull and 381 at Grimsby.
In 1954 the last tunny was caught off the Scarborough coast and with the fish a vital food source for the herring schoals, it was only a matter of time before those populations also went into decline. The loss of the herring industry was gradual, but by the late 19060s the fishing industry of old had been consigned to history.
Technical details: Nikon D3s, Lens Nikon VR 70-200mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter Speed 1/1600s, ISO 1EV under 200.
Picture: James Hardisty
Words: Sarah Freeman