Case study Hastings

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Hastings FLAG case study


Hastings is one of Britain's oldest fishing ports with boats launched from the shingle beach in front of the Old Town (an area known as the Stade) for over 1000 years (Urquhart and Acott, 2013). Once a medieval Cinque port, today it is home to one of the largest beach launched fishing fleets in Europe (approximately 23 boats). All the boats are under ten metre inshore vessels. Hastings is a mixed fisheries with MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification for its Dover Sole, Mackerel and Herring fisheries. Hastings is an urban coastal town situated on the southeast coast of England with a population of 86,000[1] (See Figure 1). It has a rich historical and cultural history, including its association with nearby Battle and the 11th Century Norman Conquest. This was followed by many centuries as a successful fishing town and the 19th Century emergence as a popular and affluent Victorian spa resort. Sadly this was followed by a well-documented economic decline from the mid 20th century onwards[2]. Hastings is ranked in the 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) as the 19th most deprived district in England[3]. Hastings has sought to address pockets of severe social and economic deprivation through intensive government and community led regeneration interventions over the last twenty years. This is an important context for fisheries governance integration within wider local development planning as outlined below.

Figure 1. Hastings, East Sussex, southeast England (Source: VLIZ, 2014)

Fisheries Governance Overview

Efforts to reverse this economic and social decline with regard to the fleet and fishing community (which faces challenges of rising fuel and license costs, reduced quotas, ageing demographic, risk of reduced fishing grounds and limited number of new industry entrants) has manifest most recently with the town securing FLAG status and funding. FLAGs are funded by Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and are intended to support the sustainable local development of fishing industries and their related communities without increasing fishing effort. EFF is managed in the UK by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), a non-departmental public body under the government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Hastings is one of six English FLAGs. This funding programme has been developed in part owing to the acknowledgement at European Commission level that fisheries in smaller communities often make a considerable contribution to direct and indirect tourism, cultural and social value[4]. Thus many of the FLAG projects focus on capitalising on these contributions through encouraging tourism and cultural fisheries related projects for example through fish festivals. In addition they often work to secure a higher value for catch landed through marketing and supply chain innovation. In the case of Hastings the social value (through education and training) has also been developed through the fisher-led education provision in Classroom on the Coast based on the beach. Making fishing a more secure profession to attract the next generation of fishers has also been central to a lot of the FLAGs with investment in port/ beach infrastructure and other health and safety elements on the boats. EFF will be replaced with the EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) in 2015 with a particular focus on Integrated Marine Policy (IMP). The Hastings FLAG board has a membership of a mixture of stakeholders from private, public and fishing industry. The FLAG partnership reports into Hastings Borough Council (the allocated local accountable authority). Locally, the FLAG also connects with and submits updates to the Local Strategic Partnership set up in 2002 under Neighbourhood Renewal funding to drive the Hastings Community Strategy) to ensure connectivity between local regeneration activity and planning. In terms of fisheries and beach related governance at the local level the Hastings fleet is represented by their fishing association the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society (HFPS). The fleet also interact and have linkages with other local governance structures that govern and shape the space on the beach and in the area directly off the beach (including The Stade Partnership and The Foreshore Trust); with the neighbourhood forums for the communities directly behind the beach (East Hastings Area Management Board and Old Town Residents Association); and finally with broader user group forums (such as the Coastal Users Group). In terms of fishing industry representation at a national level the fishers have the option of membership through the NFFO (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations) and the inshore fleet specific national association NUTFA (New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association). The Hastings fleet is an inshore fishing fleet and has been a strong advocate of NUTFA. English inshore fisheries management (operating within six nautical miles) is policed and managed by the IFCAs (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities). The Hastings fleet work with the Sussex IFCA. The IFCAs co-operate with the MMO on several areas including fisheries enforcement and marine protected area management. IFCAs are funded through local authorities, but report to Defra. IFCAs replaced the sea fisheries committees in April 2011, with an important expanded socio-economic remit to "lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry"[5]. The MMO is responsible for regulation and licensing of fishing in England. The duties and powers of the IFCAs and the MMO are set out in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (UK) and this takes account of the European Union instrument for fisheries management the recently amended Common Fisheries Policy[6]. The Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2009 (UK) establishes the marine planning regime for the UK including underlying ICZM principles and the designation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) (and in England Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Natural England (an Executive Non-departmental Public Body that is responsible for advising the UK Government on the natural environment) works with relevant stakeholders in helping inform Defra on their planning for these sites. UK fisheries management and marine planning is informed by the work conducted by Cefas (Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), who are an executive agency responsible for carrying out research and monitoring of fish and shellfish stocks.

Summary of governance related challenges and opportunities faced by this community in securing sustainability goals

[Note: This summary table provides a time-specific snapshot of the issues observed in Winter 2013 during the research for this case study. The full context and detail of these issues can be read in the full GIFS report here: Fisheries governance and the social processes that make up these structures are highly dynamic and this table should be read with that in mind.]

Environmental sustainability issues

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation for Mackerel, Herring and Dover Sole. Hastings is informally perceived as an MSC flagship model (i.e. for other fleets to learn best practice from when working towards accreditation). Collaboration with Sussex IFCA (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority) on the data collection for the development of Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) evidence. Ongoing debates regarding Cod quota allocation shows how tensions and inconsistencies can exist within fisheries management between regional scientific fish stock management objectives, historical allocation of national quota and securing the economic viability of small scale inshore fishing communities.

Social sustainability issues

Development of ‘good governance’ in the multi-sector local partnership through FLAG to help protect the fleet and develop the political organisation and unity within the community. Social and political infrastructure resilience is being developed (led by HFPS and FLAG) through multiple contacts and representation of the fisher voices and agendas in community and economic structures. Classroom on the Coast provides a skills development and training venue for the fishing community. Classroom on the Coast provides public education around the value and practices of a sustainable fishery; as well as local ecological knowledge around fish identification, the marine environment and sourcing and preparing sustainable seasonal fish. Increased interaction between different communities within the town (through the Stade public space cultural/ education activities programme including the Stade Hall gallery) which enables increased social cohesion, sharing of cultural values and customs and in doing so helps build upon the central fisheries component to the town’s sense of identity. Collaboration and leadership in the generation of the small-scale fleet representative bodies in the UK (NUTFA) and Europe wide (LIFE) help the fleet engage meaningfully in the political process at national and European level where previously the sector has been largely disenfranchised. While working with global environmental NGOs like Greenpeace to advocate sustainable fishing practices raises their lobbying capacity at national and European Parliament level (See: last-fishermen-film). Despite the increased organisation of the fishing community and industry the current rate of reduction of the fleet means the social and community infrastructure, economic wealth and cultural traditions may be lost due to the eventual dissolution of this small community.

Economic sustainability issues

The FLAG partnership acts as a catalyst for inclusion of the fleet and maritime issues in the town’s more strategic economic development and regeneration planning. Generation of self-funding charity arm of HFPS improves the economic resilience of local governance. Application for funding bids via the FLAG structure to enable the development/ resolve obstacles to economic sustainability (e.g. replacing bulldozers). Creation of new revenue streams for the community from fisher led alternative education provision and media fees. Working with local restaurants and cookery school to help develop markets for more sustainable species and by-catch. Participation in lobbying at national level to facilitate a more equitable and sustainable division of quota currently concentrated in the comparably environmentally unsustainable larger boat sector.

References and relevant links


  1. Government Office South East (GOSE) (2008) Key facts about Hastings. Available Online at: 179021/Hastings.pdf [Accessed 27 July 2009]
  2. Hastings Regeneration Partnership (2002) Making Waves – A regeneration strategy for Hastings and St Leonards, Hastings Regeneration Partnership: Hastings
  3. Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) (2011) The English Indices of Deprivation 2010. The Stationery Office (TSO), London
  4. DG MARE (2013) Studies for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy: Lot 3 Socio-economic dimensions in EU fisheries (Final Report). European Commission, DG MARE
  5. Defra (2010) Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities: vision, success criteria and high-level objectives. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London.
  6. EC COM, (2013) REGULATION (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy

Relevant links