“The last straw came when all the fishermen working on the quay were given a letter to vacate the site, clear all our gear off, as they wanted to build housing… so we decided… rather than sell this land to a developer, can the fishermen buy it?”
This is a story of how a strong, self-organised community of fishermen in the southeast stood up against the gentrification of their harbour. The Eastbourne fishermen, with the help of the New Economics Foundation (NEF), have been innovatively accessing an array of funds and garnering public and political support to secure their future through the Fishing Quay project. The project is finally coming to fruition following years of setbacks, hard work and grassroots action.
This story paints a bigger picture, and we frame this episode of Fathom within a discussion of fisheries funds. Government grant mechanisms have long been relied upon by the industry, to improve safety and sustainability, develop landing sites, auctions and marketing, modernise harbours… the list goes on. However, with the remaining Maritime and Fisheries Fund (MFF) being diverted to COVID-19 related support, and with Brexit drying up the EU support package, the industry has been left without a live grant scheme. Long term, strategic grant systems are vital to help fishermen ride the wave of changes brought about by a tumultuous year.
Whilst DEFRA and the MMO work on a new funding programme, with a promised launch in 2021, this Fathom episode provides some guidance on how the industry can best make the most of this lull in funding. This is the time to reflect and assess, to think about how the industry can use future funds to become more resilient, and to design novel, local projects to best channel these funds. The Eastbourne case is just one story.
The episode also includes a quick update from the MMO, and a useful explanation of credit unions and the role they can play in unlocking grant schemes. Tune in for inspiration!
Graham Doswell (Eastbourne Fishermen’s CIC)
Chris Williams (NEF)