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Fish processing is thriving on the Humber with jobs at an eight-year high

GRIMSBY'S seafood industry is at its biggest for nearly a decade.

Fish processing is thriving on the Humber with jobs at an eight-year high

A total of 4,922 full-time equivalent roles exist in the region's processing sector, with the vast majority of the 61 sites in the town, latest figures show.

Humberside, as it is referred to, is the only area in the whole of the UK to see an increase – up 10 per cent on 2014 – and higher than it has been in studies undertaken biannually since 2008.

The major expansion of Morrisons' operations and the consolidation of Young's Seafood have played a major role, with several smaller processors also growing strongly.

Figures come from an in-depth study completed by Seafish, the industry authority, and forms part of the 2016 Seafood Processing Industry Report, recently released.

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Simon Dwyer, pictured, who has taken on the secretariat role for Grimsby Fish Merchants' Association in the past 12 months, and is a driving force on public/private cluster organisation Seafood Grimsby & Humber, said: "I am encouraged by the findings, and I think it will surprise a lot of people that it is a growth industry, and not in decline.

"When you think we have other food industry manufacturing here, the bread, the soups and the ready meals, then the supply chain too, you easily get to 25,000 jobs in the wider industry. And the vast majority of businesses and people are local, paying local taxes and spending locally too.

"It is testament to Grimsby that we have this, and not only is it nationally recognised, but internationally recognised as a seafood and food processing hub."

Only the Grampian region, taking in Scotland's Fraserburgh and Peterhead, comes close to Humberside, with 3,766 jobs and 59 processing sites.

The latest figures value the sector of the industry at £3.13 billion, with £942 million of turnover generated in the Grimsby area.

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Mr Dwyer said the statistics added weight to his work with the Government, ensuring leaving the European Union doesn't impact on the industry.

There are clear divisions between what is best for processing and what is best for catching.

"It is important going forward that we get the right conditions for Brexit for us," he said.

Appointed as the local representative on Defra's seafood processing Brexit committee, which has met twice and toured the town, he is pushing hard on three fronts – trade, labour and regulation.

With roughly 30 per cent of that near 5,000 figure of employees from Eastern Europe, Mr Dwyer said skills and access to labour are high on the agenda, so too the time it takes to get product to the processor.

"If we lose overall competitiveness there is a danger that processing of food and seafood will go elsewhere," Mr Dwyer said, mindful it could become a distribution centre for international produce rather than a processing cluster.

"Owners of businesses and investors in businesses will have a keen eye on how Brexit is being handled," he said. "We are putting forward a strong message to them on these three key aspects that will keep us competitive going forward."

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