Beach tractor could save Worthing fishing industry

John Booker (second from left) and Andy Sparsis (second from right)
John Booker (second from left) and Andy Sparsis (second from right)

A beach tractor is just one of the ideas to respark Worthing’s fishing industry that came from a recent trip to a Sussex town.

On December 1 a group of 40 fishermen, council representatives and businessmen took a coach trip to Hastings to see its thriving fishing industry.

It’s a good idea, as it means you can get the boats up and down the beach at different times of the day

John Booker

The Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group explained the town’s fishing history and gave Worthing’s fishermen advice.

One idea that event organiser Andy Sparsis is keen to replicate in Worthing is using a tractor to pull the boats up the beach, a process that can otherwise take half an hour.

John Booker, one of Worthing’s last full-time fishermen, went on the trip and welcomed the idea of a tractor.

“It’s a good idea, as it means you can get the boats up and down the beach at different times of the day. It would make a lot of difference.”

Mr Sparsis, owner of the Fish Factory restaurant in Brighton Road, said he would seek Worthing Borough Council’s permission for a tractor, which he would hire for a month-long trial, as well as water and electricity supplies to the fisherman’s fronts.

He said: “What the Hastings fishermen showed us was that we need to make it easier for our guys to go out fishing.

“Fishing off Worthing beach isn’t a realistic full-time income at the moment, so what we need to do is help our existing fishermen and then their friends and family might start fishing too. It is a bit like laying the foundations; there’s no point in building a house on pebbles.”

Martin Randall, Director for the Economy at Worthing Borough Council, was at the event. He said: “We saw first hand how much of a difference basic facilities – such as running water and access to power – make to local fishermen and how these can transform the way that local communities can buy the fresh catch straight from the beach.

“I truly believe that the benefits in supporting this vital industry aren’t just economic – eating healthy, locally sourced food is something that the Worthing community absolutely wants to do, and by supporting our local fishermen, we can make this happen.

“The whole team came away inspired by everything that has been achieved in Hastings and ready to apply what we’ve learnt to Worthing.”

MP Tim Loughton also pledged his support for the cause.

In the long-term, Mr Sparsis hopes a fishing museum will be built in the town, and that Worthing will be home to the UK’s first fisherman’s apprenticeship. Read more here.

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