Could fisheries and aquaculture help coastal community development?

PUBLISHED: 12:14 02 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:14 02 August 2017

West Bay one of the many busy working harbours on our coast

West Bay one of the many busy working harbours on our coast


Martin Sutcliffe, from Dorset and East Devon Fisheries Local Action Group, explains how targeted community funding could help tourism

The fishing towns and villages of the Dorset coast are famous for their picturesque charm and history; tourism in the South West brings much needed income to these areas. Visitors come here to explore our hidden coves, sheltered bays and eat fresh fish and chips on the harbour side. However, these bustling historic working ports and harbours belie the truth: the local fishing industry and supporting communities have declined over recent years. There are various reasons for this: a lack of young people joining the sector, competition from larger vessels and prohibitive start-up costs are certainly among them. If these fishing communities are allowed to fall into further decline, tourism activity in the region may also drop off.

Coastal waters around Dorset and East Devon are some of the warmest and most productive in the UK and this, coupled with relatively small tidal ranges and algae rich waters, means that this region of the South West coast has long been identified as a prime area for aquaculture. Yet, in Dorset there are relatively few businesses operating in this sector. This is partly due to a lack of knowledge and skills to help develop sites, but also a lack of funding available for starting a business. The county’s coast is rich in biodiversity and home to various designated Marine Conservation Zones and Protected Areas. The small scale, inshore fishing carried out along our coastline, which has a limited impact on the precious marine environment, should be encouraged and celebrated. Scallops hand-dived off Lulworth Cove fetch premium prices at market, and shellfish such as crab and lobster landed at Weymouth is exported to markets in France, Spain and beyond. One would therefore assume that local seafood has a strong branding, but Dorset seafood is not as well-known as other areas along the coast.

Developing and expanding aquaculture sites and creating new and enhanced infrastructure are ideal opportunities to give the area an economic boost. By working with coastal communities we can ensure development works for businesses, residents and tourists. For example, enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of our ports, harbours and public areas would boost community pride and attract more visitors. And a thriving economy and improved facilities could attract more businesses. Currently there is little opportunity for small scale fisherman to promote their catch and raise awareness of the quality of it. So how can we support them?

Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and Marine Management Organisation, have had great success in the UK and Europe, developing infrastructure, businesses and facilities at fishing harbours and in coastal communities. The Dorset and East Devon FLAG has been established to help develop projects that can provide a much needed boost to coastal communities from Swanage to Beer. Through local consultation, undertaken by Dorset Coast Forum, needs were identified and transformed into a set of key Local Development Priorities. Local people with expertise and knowledge of the fisheries, aquaculture and related sectors will help decide which projects the FLAG will fund and it is hoped that the Dorset and East Devon FLAG can bring similar benefits to this area. Over the next three years, we hope to make a positive difference to the livelihoods of local fishermen and our coastal communities. 

Meet Martin

Martin Sutcliffe is the FLAG Animateur, helping to develop projects for the fund. He has a passion for the marine environment and a background in aquaculture and the public aquarium industry. Find out more about FLAG and how to apply at, to get in touch email or call 01305 224766.

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