Seafish fleet researcher Joe Cooper reports from Eastbourne

I visited Eastbourne during exciting times for local people, but especially for the under-10m fleet at Sovereign Harbour. It was the first day of opening for fish sales at the newly constructed Quay Fisheries, managed by Eastbourne U10 Fishermen’s Community Interest Company (CIC).

I spoke to director and fisherman Graham Doswell and his daughter Lucy about the incredible effort it has taken to create the Fishermen’s Quay. For the first time, fishermen in Eastbourne have the facilities to store, process and sell their catch, allowing them more control over the seafood supply chain.

Seeing the plan come to fruition first-hand, I’m already excited for what happens next. The first building stands in the style of traditional black fishing huts but looks much more modern, with bright green roller shutter doors. The fish shop, processors and offices are in business, while Graham is trading in a few days at sea to operate the smokery.

It’s been a year since construction began in August 2020, but the plans have been much longer in the making.

It has been 30 years since fishermen settled into this manmade marina. About 20 years later, in 2013, the CIC was formed to protect their place on the harbour, preventing an area earmarked for the fishing quay from becoming a luxury housing development.

As anyone involved will tell you, there have been huge hurdles along the way, from the collapse of construction company Carillion to the Covid-19 crisis. But nothing is stopping them now. The determination and co-operation of the CIC, working with and supported by the local community and authorities, the MMO, the New Economic Foundation and The Seafarers’ Charity, really is inspiring.

One of the great things about this project is that as well as building facilities, they are also building bridges between fishermen and the community. Apart from a row of restaurants, there is currently no community element to Sovereign Harbour. The plans for the next phase of development of the quay aim to change this.

Soon, the Fishermen’s Quay will see the opening of a heritage and visitor centre, allowing tourists to experience the local history of fishing. There will also be
a meeting space for schools and local interest groups, as well as a space for courses and workshops on cooking, safety and navigation.

What better way could there be to promote the local industry and seafood? I can’t wait to come back to see how things progress in the future.

Joe is a fleet researcher with Seafish, working on the 2021 fleet survey, which is taking place now. If you are happy to take part, please email: fleet. survey@seafish.co.uk with
your name, email and/or phone number and port of operation.

Find out more here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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