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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
Fishing towns turning to tourism
Traditional fishing fleets are facing decline
Many British fishing communities are turning to tourism to overcome economic decline, a study has revealed.

Researchers found that in several North Sea fishing towns, tourism could bring in more income than fishing itself.

But the Newcastle University team warned the towns risk becoming fishing "theme parks" if developments are not carried out carefully.

The study focused on North Shields on Tyneside, Shetland and Peterhead in Scotland, and Lowestoft in East Anglia.

Three of the four towns - Peterhead, Lowestoft and North Shields - were making attempts to develop the tourist industry and had already made progress.

Capitalising on a town's fishing heritage provides it with an identity as well as an economy
Prof Tim Gray, Newcastle University

By contrast, Shetland had taken few steps in this direction, probably because its fishing industry is still very profitable, the EU-funded study found.

Researchers said tourism was of increasing importance to Lowestoft and North Shields because they could no longer rely on fishing as a major source of income. In both towns, there were several examples where fishing heritage was being used as a hook to attract visitors.

Prof Tim Gray, from the university's school of geography, politics and sociology, said: "Many of the smaller fishing communities have been unable to compete in an increasingly globalised fishing industry and it's become an economic necessity for them to diversify and find other sources of income, such as tourism.

Additional income

"Although fishing activity has decreased in these towns, they still have a strong attachment to their fishing heritage and are keen to exploit this and use it as a marketing tool to reel visitors in.

"Capitalising on a town's fishing heritage provides it with an identity as well as an economy. However, developers should be careful not to turn towns into glorified fishing 'theme parks'".

Paul Williams, from the Sea Fish Industry Authority, added: "The fishing industry can enhance tourist appeal in towns and it's all revenue that benefits the local community and gives many fishermen an additional income.

"There is a huge potential for fishing and tourism links. As well as fishing communities servicing tourist trips, there is also a supply of good quality, fresh seafood straight off the quayside and into the hotels and restaurants, which is a magnet for food lovers."

The study is published in the academic journal Fisheries Research.

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