Eastbourne Fisherman’s CIC – major financial boost to Eastbourne close-knit fishing community

A close-knit fishing community operating out of Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour, currently being supported via the Community Economic Development (CED programme), has successfully leveraged major funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Eastbourne Fisherman’s CIC was established in 2013 and participated in the CED programme in order to integrate their EMFF bid with wider community–level work with local residents, authorities and markets.

The £5,000 grant funding through CED came just at the right time, allowing the community to continue their relationship with technical expert Chris Williams, Project Lead – Fisheries & Marine Environment at New Economics Foundation (NEF). Chris helped the group to successfully apply for EMFF funding to develop the quayside in the harbour and also helped them shape a holistic and collaborative CED plan to ensure their plans are rooted in the local community. Currently the 29 vessels provide employment for 72 fishermen, and using the Seafish multipliers this equates to around 200 local jobs linked to the fishery. Safeguarding these jobs locally is essential for the survival of the fleet and local fishing heritage.

In light of the small-scale nature (majority of vessels under 10m in length) of Eastbourne’s fishing fleet and to ensure a sustainable future, the fishermen plan to create a facility that will enable the fishing fleet to produce their own ice, process their own fish and shellfish and thereby add value to their product.

By processing their own fish, making their own ice and selling directly to local customers including schools, the council, hospitals, residents associations etc., they will be able to keep the value they generate in the local economy thereby maintaining existing jobs in the fishery and creating new jobs in processing and running the facility.

Having this CED plan in place and support of local stakeholders enabled Chris to successfully work with The Eastbourne Fishermen’s CIC to secure the European funding as well as match funding from East Sussex County Council. The remaining funds will come from the fishermen themselves via loans from the Charity Bank. The EU funding was significant given Brexit and but the Government announced they would honour EMFF payments up to 2020.

Chris Williams, Project Lead – Fisheries & Marine Environment at New Economics Foundation (NEF) explained “getting to this point has not been simple and we have persevered since 2015 working closely with Graham Doswell, a third generation Eastbourne fisherman, who is a director of Eastbourne Fishermen’s CIC and heads up one of the thirty, family-run fishing boats that operate from Sovereign Harbour.

“We worked closely with Graham to develop the business plan, a Return on Investment (ROI) model as well as writing a complex grant application and achieving match funding. The process of preparing the CED plan and the holistic approach to working with the local community was definitely a catalyst and turning point.

This work also links to the aims of the coastal communities programme, Blue New Deal which promotes shorter supply chains, inshore fishermen as price makers not price takers, sustainable inshore fisheries.”

Graham Doswell explains:

“I’m a fisherman and my father was a fisherman, just like his dad before. I’ve been fishing since I was a toddler, going to sea with my dad when the weather was good. I never really thought about doing anything else, to be honest. It’s a skilled job—hard work, dangerous, long hours”. Our fisheries are tailored to have a minuscule by catch because you have to physically untangle it out of the net. We’re using big mesh sizes, being selective.”

Currently, the fishermen are limited in the number of species that can be exploited locally due to the lack of quota, landing, storage and processing facilities. The proposed facilities would consist of three main buildings which would serve the entire fleet and would also engage the local community with the heritage of the local fleet and local provenance of seafood. This is an opportunity to change the future of a fishing community forever.


The EMFF is a European funding scheme which will support fisheries, inland waters, aquaculture and maritime sectors. The fund provides support for sustainable development within the fishing and aquaculture sectors and conservation of the marine environment, alongside growth and jobs in coastal communities. The purpose of the scheme is to provide European Member States with a financial support mechanism to the fisheries, inland waters, aquaculture and maritime sectors. The scheme will help reach economic, environmental and social goals and will enable European Member States to:

  • help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing
  • support coastal communities in diversifying their economies
  • finance projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts
  • make it easier for applicants to access financing.

The UK has €243 million (around £190 million) of the programme which is split between England (€92.1 million), Scotland (€107.7 million) Northern Ireland (€23.5 million) and Wales (€19.7 million).