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Coronavirus Kent: Fish Local campaign encouraging people to buy from local fishermen during lockdown

A campaign has been kick-started in a bid to encourage more people to eat freshly caught local fish, as it has become more difficult to buy fresh catches from supermarkets during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (KEIFCA) have launched a website called Fish Local, with the hope people will use it to support the local fishing industry and fisherman in places like Ramsgate and Whitstable.

Ramsgate harbour
Ramsgate harbour

Since the global pandemic, many supermarkets have resorted to closing their fresh fish stalls, meaning the easiest way to get the produce is from Kent fisherman working off the coast.

But the organisers behind Fish Local believe the current situation also presents a unique opportunity to permanently revitalise the local inshore fishing industry.

John Nicholls, deputy chair of KEIFCA and chairman of the Thanet Fishermen's Association, said the campaign could bring back the customer-fisherman relationship of yesteryear.

He said: "We're going back 50 years ago, this is what we did - sell directly to the public, from the boats, and I can see a return of that.

"This is the foundation stone put down by the coronavirus for possibly a new future for the retailing of fish.

"Lets get your fish cheaper than you've seen before by buying direct from us, and lets not have to send our fish abroad and be held to ransom by European markets."

Before the pandemic, 80% of a catch for fishermen in Kent would be sold to to other countries, but now many international and national markets have closed many of these lifelong skippers are finding their livelihoods at threat.

With the Fish Local website, customers can put in their postcode and find the closest business to them selling fresh fish, as well as tricks and tips on how to cook and prepare it.

The 68-year-old said: "There are a number of good outlets throughout Kent which people don't necessarily know exist, so we're putting them on the map.

"People can even buy direct from the boats in some cases."

Some of the catches making their way to residents
Some of the catches making their way to residents

Mr Nicholls, who now lives in Broadstairs, has been a fisherman all his life, and has seen big changes in the industry over the years.

He believes a big part of revitalising the local trade is about educating the public on how easy it can be to cook fish.

"We're not going to build this overnight, but I think there's opportunities there and there'll be government sponsorship to do that as well."

He added: "Fish is so simple to cook - it takes minutes - and doesn't take long to prepare either.

"We need the general public to eat more fish. I see the general public in then UK eating fish once every six weeks, but on the continent it's almost eaten everyday."

Olly Swift was surprised at the reaction of his request to deliver fresh fish last week
Olly Swift was surprised at the reaction of his request to deliver fresh fish last week

Last week, a fisherman from Thanet found himself drowning in requests to deliver his freshly caught fish to people in isolation across the isle.

Olly Swift, 24, from Ramsgate, had his inbox flooded after offering up his catches to people on Facebook.

He said: "People are loving fish at the moment, it's kind of the elder generation though, not really people my age.

"Young people, they prefer a burger or a KFC, they don't want a nice prepared fresh fish.

"I'm trying to open it up a bit more, show people how prime and fresh it can be."

You can visit the Fish Local site by clicking here

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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