new decade of the 1960s began with Hastings boasting a colourful
fleet of modern trawlers, backed up by a group of multi-purpose
punts, a total of roughly 36 boats (although not all were working).
The trawlers had big diesel engines enabling them to tow against
the tide, instead of just with it as had been the case with
the Kelvins. The trawlers also had wheelhouses where modern
aids such as echo sounders and later radio and radar could be
fitted (the first small, fairly cheap echo sounders appeared
in the mid-1950s).
new trawlers could not catch fish that were not in the sea,
however. By the early 1960s overfishing of the outside grounds
had depressed the industry still further, and the future looked
bleak again. The situation was saved by the extension of the
fishing limits in September, 1964, from three to 12 miles.
The inshore six miles of the 12 were exclusive to Britain,
while the outer six were shared with France and Belgium who
claimed historic rights to work there. During the rest of
the 1960s the French and the Belgians did not take full advantage
of their privileges in the outer six miles, however, and the
local fish stocks recovered enough to give the Hastings fleet
a better living.
During the 1960s the punts underwent changes that subsequently
helped to transform fishing at Hastings. Punts - undecked
craft now up to about 24ft long have been in use at Hastings
for centuries. Before engines appeared they could be just
rowing boats with a sail at their smallest, or 18-20ft two-masters
at their largest. But generally until the 1950s punts were
small compared with today's craft, being usually 14-16ft long.
They occupied the west end of the stade near the harbour.
used to be looked down on by the big boat men, sometimes being
equated with that most despised of beings, the farmer. The
origin of this prejudice lay in the deep-sea sailing skills
needed by the! old big boat fishermen on their long voyages,
skills not required by the punters who only fished within
a few miles of Hastings. This attitude was hardly fair, however,
as the big boat men could survive in recent years by just
one form of fishing, trawling, while the ptunters had to be
experts at a whole range of other methods as well: spratting,
trammelling, mackerel and herring drifting, shrimp trawling,
longlining and anything else when times were hard. The punters
were the poorest fishermen, usually owners of their craft
and unable to afford the move up to a big boat because the
punts were too small to make any significant profit.