Ben Bengey, 18, believes the North Devon fishing industry needs more young blood to survive...

Andrew and Ben Bengey at work on board Silver SpiritAndrew and Ben Bengey at work on board Silver Spirit

One of the youngest skippers in the North Devon fishing fleet is working hard to carve out a business for himself on the Bristol Channel.

Ben Bengey is just 18 but his boat Silver Spirit is the only one in Ilfracombe Harbour with both a commercial and a charter licence.

In the summer Ben goes potting for lobster and crab, as well as taking parties out on four and eight hour angling trips, plus he takes groups of visitors out for one-and-a-half hour 'lobster safaris'.

Ben says it is an opportunity for people to find out more about the industry, how it has changed, to see lobster and crab caught, as well as to buy them if they wish.

Andrew Bengey checks a lobster pot.Andrew Bengey checks a lobster pot.

“People enjoy it and it has been quite successful,” he said.

“I can't do as much as I'd like because it's a smaller boat, but I want to develop the business and as the years go on, get bigger and better.”

He is often joined at sea by dad Andrew and both are on the Ilfracombe lifeboat crew.

When he isn't potting or chartering, Ben helps run other boats for Ilfracombe-based Bristol Channel Charters and in the winter he continues to work on board a local whelk boat.

He started on potting boats when he was 15 and on board charter boats aged just eight or nine, but he fears the industry needs more new blood to survive.

“The whole industry is dying – I am the youngest and in the next 10 years it does not look like there are any young ones coming through,” he said.

“I am quite keen to find more young people to get into it.”