THE tradition of Ayr as a fishing port, which stretches back centuries, has come to an end with the introduction of a new fish market ten miles up the coast at Troon.
In what has become a fishing tradition, the first box of fish landed at the new market was auctioned last night in aid of charity - fittingly enough the money raised will go to the RNLI.
After a long and sometimes acrimonious campaign to have the market on Ayr's South Harbour retained and modernised the final decision was made by Associated British Ports (ABP) to develop the site at Troon. More than #700,000 has been spent on the site, including the building itself, refurbished quayside, security lighting and a large area for the storage and maintenance of nets.
Philip Condliffe, ABP's manager for the ports of Ayr and Troon, said: ``I believe this is good news for the fishing fleet and for the Ayrshire economy as a whole.
``There was no space for the market at Ayr to develop and we were in danger of falling foul of strict European hygiene regulations covering the buildings themselves and the loading of fish at the side of the public road.''
Another reason for the move was the continuing development of the Citadel and harbour area as part of a multimillion pound project jointly backed by the local authority and private developers.
It is understood that talks are continuing between ABP and South Ayrshire Council as to how best the old market site can be used.
A campaign was launched in Ayr to save the fish market and it was claimed that skippers did not favour Troon and that wholesalers and processors would look elsewhere .
Last night, however, over 20 boats landed a mixture of prawns and white fish at a lively market auction.
Mr Condliffe added: ``I can understand and sympathise with those in Ayr who saw problems in the closing of the market and also with those who did not want hundreds of years of tradition to come to an end.
``I would ask them to look at the quality of the new market before passing judgment and would also point out that fishing is not being killed off at Ayr as there will still be landings by special arrangement.''
Both Mr Condliffe and those in the industry who support him see the fishing industry flourishing as a result of this, the biggest single local investment in the area by ABP since a new coal terminal was built in the 1980s.
He added: ``I believe that the majority of those in the business now see the sense of this project and I am confident that we will win over the rest. I believe that skippers from far and wide will want to land at Troon and that their customers will be far happier operating at a modern market facility.''