First step success to habitat restoration on the Sussex coast

March 23, 2021

It was announced this week that a new byelaw to help the regeneration of our nearshore marine habitats has been passed by the UK Secretary of State for the Environment.

The new byelaw means trawling will be more progressively managed across a large swathe of the Sussex coastline from Chichester Harbour to Rye, in the hope that reduced disturbance from trawling will help the natural marine habitat including our native kelp forests to regenerate.

Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) have spent several years working closely with stakeholders to develop and submit the new byelaw. The new fisheries management measures are specifically intended to help safeguard the habitats that will ensure sustainable inshore fisheries into the future. Historically, until the late 1980’s the area now protected by the byelaw held extensive, dense kelp beds that supported abundant marine life, including important commercial fish and shellfish species such as bass, sole, black seabream, lobsters and cuttlefish. The kelp is now largely absent, so the ecology of the area is significantly diminished compared with the recent past.

In addition to the fisheries benefits that recovering kelp provides, coastal kelp beds help combat climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (carbon sequestration), reduce coastal erosion by absorbing wave energy and provide a haven for wildlife.

Dr Sean Ashworth, Deputy Chief Fisheries & Conservation Officer for the Authority And Vice Chair of The Living Coast Board says: ‘We are delighted that the local community and central government have recognised the critical importance of looking after Sussex marine wildlife and the local fisheries that critically depend upon it. We look forward to seeing a regeneration of the lost kelp forests and an associated improvement of the inshore fishery. The result is a testament to local management involving all stakeholders’.

As part of the Byelaw approval process, Sussex IFCA worked with partners Big Wave productions, Blue Marine Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and Sussex Wildlife Trust to make a film to illustrate the importance of restoring the habitat of this area of coastline, which is narrated by none other than David Attenborough!

Watch the film here

By Sarah Ryman

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