Boost for Kent and Essex’s fishing industry

A campaign to increase demand for the world class fish available along the coast of Kent and Essex, directly helping the inshore fishing industry, has taken a step forward.

Originally launched during the height of Covid-19, Fish Local was designed to help the fishing industry survive the impact of the pandemic and support the ports along the coastline of Kent and Essex.

Now those working on the campaign plan to identify underutilised species and choose one to rename, creating local, and potentially national, demand.

The Fish Local project is a collaboration between communications specialists, Band Agency and independent charity the Thames Estuary Partnership. The project will bring together a working group of key stakeholders with broad expertise across the seafood sector. They include Kent & Essex IFCA, Chapmans Fish, Shepherd Neame, Seafish 2040, Marine Conservation Society and fishers from both Kent and Essex.

Amy Pryor at the Thames Estuary Partnership said: “It is vitally important that we improve the local management of fish stocks and make the industry more sustainable as a whole. Consumers are thinking more about food miles and buying locally so we want to make the most of the plentiful, high-quality fish we have locally.

Jesse Seaward of Band Agency said: “Having worked with the local fishing industry since the start of lockdown, we knew this couldn’t just be a case of picking a fish and rebranding it. It had to be something that supported the Kent and Essex industry all the way from sea to plate. Our ultimate aim is not just to create new demand for a local species, but to build a sustainable fishery to supply that demand. The working group’s decisions will be based on data, research and feedback from the industry. We have a list of fish we will be reviewing but ultimately it will be the community that chooses the species we take forward.”

Kent and Essex’s inshore fishing industry is made up from a mix of both full-time and part-time fishing vessels – but the industry needs support to prevent further decline.

The Kent fleet operates from harbours, beaches and estuaries including Dungeness, Folkestone, Ramsgate, Whitstable and Queenborough, with Leigh-on-sea, West Mersea and Harwich on the Essex side.

Ollie Jackson, the newly appointed fisheries liaison officer to Fish Local said: “As the son of a fisherman, I have seen first hand how the Inshore fisherman have been affected over the years and with Covid-19 making things harder again. Costs are being constantly squeezed which means fewer people are learning the trade. We urgently need to support local fishermen and encourage the next generation to get involved; without them there won’t be a future for the fishing industry.”

It is widely recognised that every fisherman aboard their boat supports a further eight jobs onshore involved in the processing and selling of their catch, as well as making ports interesting places to visit.

As well as securing funding from DP World London Gateway and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which supports UK economic growth by enabling sustainable marine activities and development, the project continues to be widely supported by industry bodies such as the Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and Seafish.

More information about the Fish Local campaign can be found at www.fishlocal.org.

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