Sovereign Harbour


Threatened by corporate developers, a fishing community took control of their harbour.

Graham Doswell is a third generation fisherman from Eastbourne. In 2013, the fishermen were told to move their fishing gear off the land in Eastbourne where they had been fishing for 25 years. When they asked what was going on, they learned that the area was slated for redevelopment. We would have been out of their in a year and a half,” Doswell told Far Nearer. We had a meeting with the fishermen and decided to try and fight.”

The 72 fishermen who comprise the fleet of Eastbourne formed a Community Interest Company in 2013 to launch a rival bid to purchase the quay. After a long battle, the fishermen have secured the right to stay on the harbour and funding to build new infrastructure. 

With support from the New Economics Foundation, they won £1 million in October 2017 from the European Maritime Fisheries Fund, which runs until 2020, to build a processing unit on the quayside. The processing unit will give the fishermen the space and the kit to harvest their own fish, rather than relying on wholesalers. In time, the fishermen hope to establish better links with their community and local markets.

Because I live near the beach and the area is on my doorstep, we’ve always looked after it,” Doswell said. It’s done the fishermen and their families proud. But these last 20 years it’s just got tighter and tighter. Let’s hope we can reverse that.”

New rules needed

Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.