I have long dreamt of living by the sea and my monthly trips down to see the fishing fleet in Hastings is always a treat! A visit always feels like a day’s holiday!
We have secured funding through the MMO (Marine Management Organization) and the Hastings Borough Council to help promote the new Hastings Fish Brand initiative. We are focusing on getting Hastings landed fish on the map - in much the same way as Cornwall and Brixham have achieved already.
The fishing fleet here is small and include around twenty six under ten meter vessels. As a ‘day boat’ fishery they can only fish when the weather and tides are right – so the livelihood of the fishermen is constantly challenged. The Hastings Fishing Museum have traced the fishery back to the 10 hundreds and the Battle of Hastings with some families being able to date their lineage to that time.
After a morning at sea they bring the boats up on the beach to unload. Today the boats are attached to a chain that winch the boats ashore. In yesteryear, tractors and horses were used for the job and before that – they would be pushed up onto the beach by hand!
Some boats lay nets. They don’t hunt but wait for the fish to come to them. There are a number of key species that they harvest on this part of the south coast.
With the Hastings Fisherman’s Protection Society supporting the visits, I have had the pleasure of working with ‘stiff alive’ plaice, Dover sole, gurnard, whiting, flounder, turbot, brill, lemon sole, dabs, dogfish and thornback ray wings!
The fishermen gather a ‘box of fish’ for my visits – and I never quite know what to expect.
Flexibility is something we are keen to get chefs to consider. As fish is wild you never quite know what will be in the box and it is important to embrace the catch and make the most of it and keep the ‘fish of the day’ alive on the menu.
As the Hastings Brand ambassador - I am there through the year to prep, cook and present recipes to the general public on a number of ‘drop in’ days and to support the three key fish festivals: The Midsummer Festival in June, September’s Seafood and Wine and the Herring Fair in November. We are also arranging some chef discovery days for groups to visit the area: see the small fish market, boats landing, prepare fish – and of course – enjoy the locally caught fish and chips. There has been much regeneration of this area over the last 12 years and a Classroom the Coast kitted out with cutting and cooking stations, where we are able to deliver on-site training.
As an island nation we are so fortunate to have the choice of seafood we have but also the fishermen who are prepared to go and harvest it - still the most dangerous job.. And perhaps we take it for granted. All the industry folk I have spoken to know about the risks but choose to do it anyway and many are keen to continue to preserve our marine environment for future generations.
Billingsgate Seafood School