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Friday, August 7, 1998 Published at 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK


Fishermen suffer whelk collapse

Fishermen have made good business from whelks

Britain's whelk industry is facing a crisis because of the collapse of the South Korean economy.

North-east fishermen, hurt by new European restrictions on white fish catches, had been making a profitable living selling the sea snail.

But the inability by Korean importers to pay their bills has dealt the trade a heavy blow.

Enjoyed by few in Britain, Koreans love the whelk steamed, boiled, cooked with vegetables, or sliced and washed down with beer.

It also enjoys a reputation as an aphrodisiac.

Prices halved

Bridlington fishermen, who once dropped l7,000 whelk pots a year, now drop half that level.

The price per tonne, now about 300, has also dropped by half compared to the boom times of three years ago.

Trawlermen have turned to crabs, lobster or back to fishing, but others sold off their white fish quotas to invest in equipping their boats for the whelk trade.

[ image: Whelks are less popular in the UK than in Asia]
Whelks are less popular in the UK than in Asia
The BBC's North of England Correspondent says it would be an expensive process to re-equip their boats for fishing.

Ken Jewitt, who skippers the Moyallon, says business has been reduced to a "stop-start" process.

He and other skippers band together to ensure their combined, smaller catches, justify the cost of long-haul transport.

He says there is little the skippers can do but hope that the Korean economy recovers.

A new report by the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee says there is still demand from Korea, but "the ability to pay for goods received is making trading impossible".

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