Site of Nefyn herring fishery

Site of Nefyn herring fishery

nefyn_herringsNefyn was famed for centuries for its herrings. Large volumes were caught around the Llŷn Peninsula, many being salted locally (to preserve the fish). The pictures of herrings and a herring boat are shown here courtesy of local history website

Nefyn was the centre of the industry and sometimes fish from other areas, such as Grimsby, were sold in North Wales as “Nefyn herrings”. In 1898 fishermen petitioned the Western Sea Fisheries Board for ban on this practice. The board’s chairman acknowledged that it happened but the board said it was powerless to intervene. In a 1907 court case, one Pwllheli fishmonger accused another of dishonestly describing fish from such distant places as Scarborough and Norway as “Nefyn herring”.

nefyn_herring_boatRecords from 1287 show that Nefyn’s fishermen were also small-scale farmers in medieval times. The sandy beach at Nefyn’s natural harbour was suitable for landing fish. In the 18th century a small pier was built. By the 17th century ships were carrying bulk herring from nearby Porthdinllaen harbour.

In the 1790s travel writer Thomas Pennant criticised Llŷn Peninsula farmers for neglecting what could have been highly productive fields “for the sake of the herring fishery”. He was told that 3,000 herrings per year were sold, and in 1771 their total value was about £4,000 – almost a quarter of a million pounds in today’s money. He noted that some of the fish were salted locally, others in Dublin.

By 1910 there were 40 herring boats based at Nefyn, each with three or four crew members. Fishing was a part-time job for most of them, as the herrings were seasonal. They caught a total of about 9,000 herrings in just three days in November 1908. The First World War put an end to the long tradition.

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More herring fishery information and pictures – website