A FISHERMAN is fighting for his town’s heritage as its boats disappear.

Clive Mills, from Bognor, is returning to the seas after more than two decades as he attempts to revive the area’s fishing fleet.

He relaunched his boat, along with three others from the Bognor Fisherman’s Association, as the fight is on to kickstart fishing in the town once again.

Hundreds of boats would land the day’s catch on the shores of Bognor.

But as stocks depleted due to overfishing, the number of vessels heading out to sea also dropped.

Clive said: “I’ve always had a boat, it’s like having a pair of shoes.

“My father-in-law taught me a lesson early on - ‘you can’t keep fishing for today, you’ve got to leave something for tomorrow’.

"Those words really mean a lot to me, we need to be looking after what we’ve got because there isn’t a lot left.

"We want to put something back now, we want to show that we can catch fish and that there’s fish to be had, but we’ve got to give a percentage back to the fish.

The Argus: Clive, Steve and Terry, left to right, support the kelp project near BognorClive, Steve and Terry, left to right, support the kelp project near Bognor

“We’ve managed to stop the pair trawlers, and the fish life coming back inshore now. It's incredible and it didn’t take long.

"We’ve never seen so many pods of dolphins as this year, it’s part of what’s out there and everyone should be entitled to see that.”

Clive and three other fishermen, Dicky Leggett, Mick Steer and Terry Homer, have converted a dilipidated shed on Bognor seafront into a fish market to sell their catch.

It marks a return to the trade for Clive, after leaving in 1999, unable to make a living due to dwindling fish.

Steve Goodheart, Mayor of Bognor Regis, is supporting the campaign, and said: “All along the south coast there are fishing communities who are doing the same type of work, and as residents, we should be supporting every effort to improve the state of our coastal waters.”

As well as overfishing by large trawlers, numbers of fish also plummeted due to the eradication of their habitat and food source – kelp.

Ocean health charity Blue Marine, part of the Sussex Kelp Restoration project, is working with fisherman and conservation groups to monitor the natural recovery of kelp beds off the shores of Bognor, and the benefits they bring to commercial fishing.

Since the 1980s, more than 96 per cent of kelp beds off Sussex have been lost.

The Argus: A still from the film Bognor Fishing - Back from the Brink, showing Clive's fishmongers in BognorA still from the film Bognor Fishing - Back from the Brink, showing Clive's fishmongers in Bognor

Sam Fanshawe, Blue Marine’s UK projects manager, said: “Clive and the fishermen of the Bognor Fishermen’s Association represent inshore small-scale fishermen around the UK who have hope combined with an innovative spirit and determination to bring fishing back from the brink.

“They recognise the impact that loss of the kelp beds off the Sussex coast has had on fishing and are working with the sea to help restore not only the vital marine habitats that have been lost, but the inshore fishing communities they supported.”

Clive and his team hope to transform an area of the Bognor promenade into an education centre, documenting the area's rich fishing heritage, and informing visitors of the kelp restoration project.

The fisherman has been nominated for a National Fishing News award and had his story told in the film Bognor Fishing - Back from the Brink.