Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Paul and Lucy in the spirit of May. Photo: Sarah Rollason Cuming

Paul Stanley skipper and Lucy Phillips crew, of the fishing boat RX11.

Paul and Lucy tell HOT’s Chandra Masoliver their story and their thoughts about Hastings fishing in this day and age.

CM: Starting with you Paul, how did you decide to become a fisherman here in Hastings?

PS: My dad Mick Stanley is a fisherman, and I started going over the beach when I was very young. I remember being there almost permanently on any day off from when I was about seven. I would work with him and run around the beach with a gang of like-minded lads, and quite a few of them I’m still very good friends with. When you grow up somewhere like this, and you’ve got friends like that, you trust them with anything and everything. I helped Dad and worked on boats until I was about nineteen.

Paul as a young lad. Painting by Laetitia Yapp

Paul as a young lad. Painting by Laetitia Yapp

It was very difficult to get a boat or a stade (one of the winch sheds), it comes with the boat in Hastings, and they are very few and far between. A cousin of my father’s had a printing company, so unfortunately I got a job there; I worked there for quite a long time, it was convenient when I had young children – a regular wage, unlike fishing. But every minute I was there I was thinking about not being there. The sea is in your blood;

I’ve been a few places over the world, and I still think Rock a Nore is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I wanted to come back, and there was a now or never moment eight or nine years ago, and ever since I’ve wished I did it earlier.

The beauty of Rock a Nore-a

The beauty of Rock a Nore. Photo Lucy Phillips

The beauty of Rock a Nore

The beauty of Rock a Nore. Photo Lucy Phillips

CM: And Lucy, where were you before fishing with Paul?

LP: I grew up a few miles from Hastings on the South Coast, my parents had a village post office and store. I studied Spanish at university and then I travelled and worked in South America and wrote the Rough Guide to Argentina among many other jobs. When I came back to England I lived in Brighton for a while and then twenty years ago I moved to Hastings. As a single parent, I needed to find a job that worked around school and caring for my daughter Ruby, so I became a self-employed translator.

I was always drawn to the fishing beach; my local harbour growing up was Newhaven but I didn’t feel it connected to the town in the way that the Stade does. I loved being able to buy fish straight from the boats, and I especially liked buying fish from Mick, who always made me laugh. We’d had a food shop, my grandmother was a cook, and Dad loved fish (especially pickled herring!) – so food was a big part of our life.

Mick the Fish with sons Paul and Rob

Mick the Fish with sons Paul and Rob. Photo Lucy Phillips










Lucy with her apron on (Photo by Ruby Phillips)

Lucy with her apron on. Photo by Ruby Phillips


When Paul started work with Mick again I got to know him too. One day I went to buy fish and Mick wasn’t well, so Paul was on his own, he was really busy doing the shed and the boy ashoring; they look after the boats’ shore work, push them off and pull them up, get the fuel ready, and look after the fish once they’re landed. Half joking he asked me to give him a hand, and having grown up in a shop I felt at home standing behind a counter with an apron on.


The rowboat. Photo: Rob Stanley

The rowboat. Photo: Rob Stanley

I started to work there more and more; I learned a lot about fish and the way they are caught locally and began to realise how much that meant to me. After a couple of years Paul bought me a rowboat and we’d go off fishing for mackerel or putting lobster pots down, and I absolutely loved that.

CM: How did you get the RX11, and what’s it like going to sea?

PS: I’d been looking for a boat for two or three years before I got the Christine, even then the possibility to buy a boat and a stade were rare, but one of the older fishermen died and the chance came up, right close to the harbour. That’s a really nice place to be, it’s next to one of my friends that I used to go to sea with when I was about thirteen, and a big advantage in any wind coming from the west, which is the prevailing wind.

At the launch party for the Christine last year

At the launch party for The Christine last year. Photo: Chloe Bocking

Christine is a small boat, good in rough weather. She’s the last one with a tiller; that’s easier than with a steering wheel, which is slower to react. But any boat you’re in feels like part of you, and you get to know what’s going to happen when it’s windy and rough weather. Lucy usually does the boat handling, while I’m doing the nets, she’s learned to be very good at it.


Doug Joy fishing for herring in his Tia lily

Doug Joy fishing for herring in his Tia lily. Photo Lucy Phillips

Doug Joy and I used to have a little joke together, his crew wasn’t available, so we went to sea with him and it was fun, I think we both enjoy life and he’s still excited by what he does, even at the age of seventy-five. If you get on with someone it’s so much easier. I went with Doug for a little while – you’d always go with one other person. Now Lucy comes with me, and Doug still comes with us sometimes; if it’s windy it’s easier to have three on the boat.

CM: So Lucy, you joined Paul on the RX11?

LP: Around the time Paul got the boat, Ruby was starting out on her adult life away from home. Sadly my parents who had been very ill for some time had recently died. As I was no longer a carer I jumped at doing something a bit different. Last February I passed the New Entrance Course for fishermen – you need five ‘tickets’ to go to sea – Sea Survival, Health and Safety, First Aid, Fire fighting and Safety Awareness. We also learned about navigation, compass points, splicing etc. Most of the people on the course were teenage boys, but having been a bit of a tomboy all my life I’m not daunted by being in a male dominated world.

While getting Christine ready for her marine inspection we made cuttlefish pots, and went out with Doug in his Tia Lily, RX442, I had to learn about hauling nets and clearing nets.

Doug up to his knees helping us ashore

Doug up to his knees helping us ashore. Photo: Chloe Bocking










CM: What are your thoughts about how fishing was in Hastings?

Peter Adams doing an auction.

Peter Adams doing an auction, with Don Creed, fish salesman and Mick Stanley’s best friend, in the background. Photo: Steve Peak

PS: I think fishing has always been done sustainably in Hastings. Even when I was a boy of ten there were size limits, fishery officers quite regularly checked what came ashore; fishermen didn’t land anything below it, and anyway, people wouldn’t have bought them in the Hastings market. It was great fun to go over there as a boy, they had Dutch auctions, they’d start high, so prices got lower by degrees; people would shout “Up” and raise their hand. Tush Hamilton said you didn’t want to pay too much, but you didn’t want to lose out.

The Fish Market. Photo: Steve Peak

The Fish Market. Photo: Steve Peak

The camaraderie was fun, and afterwards everyone went to the RX Tea Shop, where the Fish Shop is now; it opened at five in the morning. There was this joke: they’d ask “Can I have my two eggs overdone, my sausage and bacon underdone, no brown on it, and my tomatoes just slightly warm?” And the woman said “We haven’t got time to do your breakfast like that.” And they’d say “Well you f****** did yesterday.” Dad said once they put a cuppa tea up to 10p he’d never go in there again, they did, so he didn’t. It was a job to get Dad to buy me a bit of toast. It was a lovely place to go and have a laugh.

RX Tea Shop in the 70s

RX Tea Shop in the 70s










At sea. Photo: Paul Stanley

At sea. Photo: Paul Stanley

CM: How do you feel about going to sea Lucy?

LP: Being at sea is really exciting you feel very free and in the moment, everything else feels unimportant. It’s a privilege, you realise fishermen have generations of knowledge. It’s a lot of work getting boats in the water, Paul pushes her off with a tractor, then I bring her back to shore to pick him up; if there’s bad weather I collect from the west side of the harbour where there’s deeper water.

CM: How has the government treated the fishing industry, both before and after Brexit?

PS: I don’t think the government cares one jot about the fishing industry. It was a big part of Brexit that we’d claim back our waters, so every fisherman that I know voted for Brexit because of these promises. The French have a twelve mile limit for any boat registered in another country, so we were promised that would be the case for us. Our waters were subject to a six mile limit because the government hadn’t fought for us. But when it came to the final deal, in 2020, on Christmas Eve we were promised everything we wanted, and by New Year’s Eve we’d been sold down the river and used as a bargaining chip with absolutely no apologies to help trade.

The other countries recognised how rich our waters are, because they have been fished sustainably. Now the ground has been torn to pieces day in day out, right on the six mile limit, by big foreign trawlers; yet still we can’t go within twelve miles of the French shores. I’ve got to give it to the French and the Spanish that they look after, and back up, their fishermen to the nth degree, and we get nothing. Our government bends over backwards to let foreign boats do what they want.

Catch mauled by seals

Catch mauled by seals. Photo: Paul Stanley

Added to that, seals are released by Mallydams (the local RSPCA) into local waters. There’s a huge colony of forty to fifty under the cliffs at Fairlight. They are not a native species to this area, and they are doing massive damage to the fish stock, and to fishermen’s livelihood. Is this even legal? If something on land could be seen to be doing as much damage, e.g. a dog let loose on a farm, it would be shot.


Catch mauled by seals

Catch mauled by seals. Photo: Paul Stanley

There are so many rules against us now that it’s getting very very difficult to make a living, and no youngsters are coming in to the industry, so in twenty years there won’t be a fishing industry in Hastings.

CM: What more would you say about this Lucy?

LP: Because of the seals, netting, one of the most sustainable ways of fishing (and what we mostly do) is becoming more and more difficult. Trawling could then become the only way to fish.

CM: There is an international law that simply requires a fitness standard for fishermen. But from November of this year the UK has chosen to interpret it so that all fishermen, even with boats under ten meters, just fishing in daylight only a mile or so offshore, will be required to comply. For example anyone with a BMI (body mass index) over thirty-five, or is colour blind, or has insulin-dependent diabetes will not be allowed to fish. Mike Cohen, Chief Executive of the National Fishing Federation Organisation, stated that it is causing huge stress and undermining mental health, and that it could decimate the inshore fleet. What do you both think?

PS: If a bloke is a skipper and has put on a bit of weight sitting in his wheelhouse, which he’s earned the right to do, his BMI might be over the recommended level. How are they going to stop you fishing over that, not giving you a health certificate? If the same happened to bus, train and taxi drivers the country would come to a standstill.

Photo Paul Stanley

Photo Paul Stanley

LP: It’s shameful how small-scale sustainable fleets are hardly supported, they have to comply with loads of regulations on they way they fish and how boats are fitted out. And now all fishermen, even if you’re only going to sea for a few hours, will have to pass (and pay for) a medical certificate to be allowed to carry on doing what they’ve been doing their whole lives without any problem. We’re also very closely monitored and have to pay for a device that tracks the boat and fill in detailed catch records after each trip. Meanwhile, heavy industrial fishing is going on a few miles off the coast that affects both sides of the Channel. Stocks are being depleted before they get to the coast by big trawlers, mostly flying Dutch and Belgian flags. Some of them are fly shooters, a new and really destructive way of fishing where boats tow a massive wall of nets, with a chain net underneath.

PS: When the cod ban was on, we had to throw hundreds of perfectly good dead fish back into the water – it meant that all the chip shops nationwide had to import their cod from Norway or Iceland. It makes no sense – what sort of green footprint will we be making if we destroy our under ten meters sustainable fishing fleet?

CM: Thank you Paul and Lucy for your insights into the Hastings fishing industry, I’ve learnt a lot.

Paul Stanley, early start aboard the Christine photo Lucy Phillips

Paul Stanley, early start aboard the Christine. Photo: Lucy Phillips



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Posted 19:11 Wednesday, May 10, 2023 In: Fishing,Hastings Life


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Richard Price

    I generally like Chandra’s work but think that when the interviewee says something stupid an untrue it should be omitted. Otherwise it gets picked up elsewhere, There was an article in the Hastings Observer based on his statement. Paul mentioned the huge colony of forty seals that are not native. This is rubbish. Forty seals is not a huge colony it is tiny. The statement that the seals are not native is untrue. An unintentional lie.

    The idea that a species is native or not to a country is fairly well established. We can say that the species was here 1000 years ago or not.

    The idea of saying that a species of seal is not native to a coastline when you have no evidence to state that is just rubbish. How do you know that grey seals were not breeding on the beach between Hastings and Pett say 500 years ago? So, in absence of evidence that they were doing so you introduce the idea that they are not native to the entire coast. It is not based on anything but imagination.

    It is not the Seals fault that they eat fish. Seals eat Fish. Our Seas are being overfished. Supertrawlers also fish and can catch up to 250 tonnes of Fish daily.
    A Grey Seal eats 15 pound of Fish a day a harbour seal is likely to eat a similar amount.

    The trawlers fish two miles off of Hastings coast. It is something that most of the fisherman of the small fishing fleet are happy to complain about. Should they complain? They supported of Brexit and Nigel Farrage. He was featured in the press with Hastings fishermen on the beach arguing for Brexit. Now they have Brexit and the trawlers are can be seen every day and in numbers are visible on ship tracker.

    I can understand why the focus on the seals instead of trawlers but it has the feel of extreme right-wing misinformation of the Brexit kind.

    Comment by Richard Price — Saturday, Sep 23, 2023 @ 21:41

  2. Brian Tanner

    A very good article, presenting very well the problems faced by the Hasting’s fleet. Sadly we don’t always appreciate what we have and then wonder why it’s n longer there. This is a local industry that deserves our wholehearted support.

    Comment by Brian Tanner — Thursday, Aug 24, 2023 @ 10:08

  3. David E MARSH

    Brilliant article. It demonstrates the crass ignorance of our government in matters of science. They should not be allowed to wreck one of the most vital resources of our nation. Their decisions will be reflected in future generations of our population’s brains, for fish and seafood contain brain-specific nutrients for which there are no alternatives. Meanwhile, MPs give themselves annual salary increases whilst the majority of people’s incomes get smaller.

    Comment by David E MARSH — Sunday, Jun 18, 2023 @ 19:51

  4. Mandy

    What an interesting article. I live in Hastings and visit the fish shacks to buy local fish. I am occasionally tempted to buy from the supermarket but this has confirmed that we should all be doing our bit to support our local fishermen and should boycott the wider fishing industry.

    Comment by Mandy — Monday, May 15, 2023 @ 10:04

  5. Edward TUDDENHAM

    What a heart warming story of the path to true love and fishing in the spectacularly beautiful Rock a Nor Hastings fishery. A fishing tradition which preserves the stocks and is truly sustainable. But what a sad story of the mendacity of our politicians giving in to the insane greed and destructiveness of mega industrialised fishing by our neighbours on the continent. We should all put pressure on the government to exclude absolutely the fleets of the rest of the world from our hard won waters that were promised to us in the run up to Brexit. About the seals, surely they should not be release where they compete for fish with our local fishermen and fisherwomen When species get moved by us they very often upset the balance of a stable environment. For example the grey squirrel. Perhaps we need more predators to control the seals. A pod of Orca?

    Comment by Edward TUDDENHAM — Friday, May 12, 2023 @ 12:53

  6. John Baker

    Outstanding article, Chandra. Deserves a much wider circulation.

    Comment by John Baker — Thursday, May 11, 2023 @ 08:40

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