Training for new and seasoned fishermen at Lyme Bay Fishing College is developing in parallel with resurgence in the local fishing community, reports John Periam

Between 12 and 15 vessels currently fish out of Lyme Regis. In the foreground is Grey Mist E 2, skippered by Barry Watson.

Between 12 and 15 vessels currently fish out of Lyme Regis. In the foreground is Grey Mist E 2, skippered by Barry Watson.

Lyme Bay Fishing College was set up 10 years ago in association with the Southern Fish Industry Training Academy and NEAT, an approved training provider for Seafish. The man behind it all was Lyme Regis-based fisherman and former RNLI crew member Steve Postles.

The idea was to promote health and safety at sea. The college runs courses for new entrants to the industry and experienced fishermen, both funded and non-funded. It has classrooms on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, where those attending also have opportunities to gain further experience at sea on the college’s own support vessel.

Further courses are run by the college at venues from Brixham to Dover, on the east coast at Ramsgate, across the country to Bristol and North Devon, and in South Wales. Courses are accredited by Seafish, the RYA, CIEH and MCA. Funding is provided by Seafish, the MCA and MMO.

Steve Postles has a team of four who help him, in addition to group administrator Alan Sandham, who has a wealth of experience in charity work within the fishing industry and works from Portsmouth. Steve said: “We take courses to the fishermen, rather than expect them to drive a long distance to visit us at Lyme Bay. Alan is excellent at co-ordinating this.”

Lyme Bay Fishing College is situated on the Lyme Regis harbour arm.

Lyme Bay Fishing College is situated on the Lyme Regis harbour arm.

Some courses are specifically tailored to attract new blood to the industry. “The college has designed new three- and five-day new entrants’ courses, which are open to all ages, and are funded. These give an opportunity for prospective fishermen to take their first steps without all their relevant seafaring tickets. It is important that we can show them just what opportunities do exist within the UK fishing industry. We have noticed an increase in younger people interested in taking on fresh challenges, and this is showing in the number of places being booked.”

Steve is keen to develop this further as the UK comes out of the EU. “I am one of the members of the Dorset region’s fishermen’s council, which has achieved wide recognition for the work we do at a local level.

“At meetings, comments are often made about attracting youngsters into the industry, and I have taken this onboard at the college. As a result, 12 new courses have been run to date, at Lyme Bay, Eastbourne, Hastings, Brixham and Bristol. Another is planned for September, along with the next five-day new entrants’ course.”

The fishing college is run by Lyme Regis fisherman Steve Postles.

The fishing college is run by Lyme Regis fisherman Steve Postles.

Safety courses are mandatory for all new entrants to the fishing industry. Merchant Shipping Notice No. 1813 (F) requires that all new entrants to commercial fishing attend a one-day basic sea survival course before going to sea for the first time. If the candidate then remains in the industry, basic health and safety, first aid and firefighter’s courses must be attended within three months. Once basic safety training is complete, a safety awareness and accident prevention course must be attended within the first two years of service.

Further courses are planned at the college using its new safety and training vessel Trinity, a 7m Twin Seas catamaran with two Selva outboards giving a speed of 20 knots. Fully approved as a training vessel and licensed to carry passengers, it was partly funded by Trinity House, which also supports many courses at the college with direct input.

Direct sales success

Steve said: “There are currently between 12 and 15 fishing vessels that use Lyme Regis as their home port. This good for the town, and instead of a decline in working vessels, as seen often in other ports, we have in fact witnessed a slight increase.

“We are lucky. It shows that Lyme Regis is trying hard to continue inshore fishing to a sustainable level. As a fishing community we need to survive, and I certainly feel we are going in the right direction. We also get support from our local council, and that is important as Lyme Regis is a very popular holiday destination. Visitors can see fishermen working in the harbour, and have the opportunity to meet them. The college also attracts interest as it is situated on the popular Cobb.”

Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the fishermen of Lyme Regis have had to meet new challenges, and the college is very much involved.

Learning how to make nets in an informal class setting at the Lyme Bay Fishing College.

Learning how to make nets in an informal class setting at the Lyme Bay Fishing College.

Getting a fair price for fish is top of the list. The college decided to set up a fish counter in the Deli-Weli delicatessen at Cobb Square, which has a Buyers and Sellers licence. The college has sponsored the fish counter, ice machine, fish fridge, website and local publicity.

Steve said: “Grants were applied for, but nothing fitted the current project, and especially at short notice. So the college put up the funding, hoping to find grants or sponsorship later.

“What a success it has been! It has now been running for almost two months.

“Fishermen receive the same price as they would have from the market before Covid-19 started. Currently nine vessels supply the fish, ranging from 7m to 12m, including day boats from other local harbours. A wide range of fish is now on offer – cod, skate, John Dory, mackerel, hake, sole, lobster, shellfish, scallop and crab. The college has trained two staff members to food and hygiene certification standard, to prepare the fish for customers.

“Once life returns to normal, I can see a lot of changes on the horizon. What has encouraged me most of all is the way the fishermen – including me; I still fish out of Lyme – have adapted to these new measures. They come ashore with a smile on their face, knowing that their catches of the day will soon be on a local’s plate. The Deli-Weli has become a hub for regional gossip, while giving purchasers an opportunity to try some new types of local fish. It brings back memories of the good days!”

The college hopes to be able to operate fully again from September, with courses at various venues on topics including engineering, sea survival, navigation, refresher training and first aid certification. There are still spaces available on many of the planned courses.

For more information, contact Steve Postles on: 07717 752544. For further details of upcoming courses, go to: fishingcollege.co.uk/courses

 

Planned courses for September and October 2020

COURSE DATE LOCATION
Introduction to Fishing – three days 2-4 September Lyme Regis
Basic Sea Survival 4 September Lyme Regis
GMDSS Short Range Radio Course 5-6 September Lyme Regis
MCA Approved Engine Course 7-10 September Lyme Regis
Safety Awareness 11 September Lyme Regis
Introduction to Fishing – five days 14-18 September Lyme Regis
Basic Health and Safety 15 September Lyme Regis
Basic Sea Survival 17 September Portland
Elementary First Aid 22 September Lyme Regis
Basic Firefighting 23 September Lyme Regis
Safety Awareness 28 September Eastbourne
Introduction to Fishing – five days 28 September-2 October Eastbourne
Basic Health and Safety 29 September Eastbourne
Stability Awareness – Experienced Fishermen 29 September Eastbourne
Stability Awareness – Advanced 30 September Eastbourne
Basic Sea Survival 1 October Eastbourne
GMDSS Short Range Radio Course 2-3 October Shoreham
Elementary First Aid 2 October Eastbourne
Basic Firefighting 3 October Eastbourne
Bridge Watchkeeping – two days 5-6 October Whitstable
Engine Watchkeeping – two days 7-8 October Whitstable
GMDSS Short Range Radio Course 10-11 October Ramsgate
Bridge Watchkeeping – five days 12-16 October Lyme Regis

Dates and venues are subject to change – please see the website for the latest information.