Sussex coast trawl ban aims to restore kelp forests | Marine life
Damaging trawl fishing has been banned in more than 100 square miles of seabed off Sussex to help once vast kelp forests recover.
New regulations have been approved to ban year-round trawling over large areas along the entire Sussex coast closest to shore, to help habitats regenerate and improve fisheries, the said Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).
Wildlife groups hope the initiative, which they say will protect 304 square kilometers of coastal seabed, will help “rebuild” the sea by allowing underwater kelp forests to regenerate.
It follows a campaign to protect kelp, backed by Sir David Attenborough, who described the approval of the new regulation as a “landmark decision” for the management of UK coastal waters.
Attenborough said: “Sussex’s remarkable kelp forests will now have a chance to regenerate and home to hundreds of species, creating an oasis of life off the coast, improving fishing and sequestering carbon in our fight. climate change.
The broadcaster and naturalist also described the new protection as a “vital victory” in tackling nature and climate crises ahead of the major international climate summit, Cop26, hosted by the UK this year.
The long algae that grow in the forests of the coastal sea provide vital habitat, feeding ground and nursery for seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster, sea bream and sea bass, increasing both wildlife and stocks. commercial.
Kelp forests can also trap huge amounts of carbon in the fight against climate change, improve water quality, and reduce coastal erosion by absorbing wave power.
As late as the 1980s, vast, dense beds of kelp stretched 40 km along the West Sussex coast between Shoreham-by-Sea and Selsey Bill and at least 4 km offshore.
But activists warned they had come down to next to nothing due to storm damage, trawling and sediment dumping from dredged boats.
While a number of factors can prevent kelp from regrowing, the implementation of the near shore trawling regulation relieves that pressure on the area where the kelp grows, giving it a chance to recover, they said.
The regulation was approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after being first approved by the Sussex IFCA in January 2020, following a public consultation.
Sussex IFCA Deputy Director of Fisheries and Conservation Dr Sean Ashworth said: “We are delighted that the local community and central government have recognized the critical importance of caring for Sussex’s marine life. and the critically dependent local fisheries.
“We look forward to seeing a regeneration of lost kelp forests and an associated improvement in inshore fishing.”
The move is being hailed as a milestone in the Help Our Kelp partnership, whose campaign was supported by Attenborough as well as MPs and members of the public.
Henri Brocklebank, Chairman of the Help Our Kelp Partnership and Director of Conservation at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “The support of the Sussex communities and our elected representatives has been inspiring.
“It shows us the passion that exists for restoring our marine ecosystems and the recognition of the value they bring to all of us, from food to the protection of our coastline.”
Charles Clover, Executive Director of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “We welcome the signing of the Sussex Settlement as it is a recognition by the government that rewinding the sea is a way to protect the marine biodiversity, invest in coastal fisheries and store carbon in one go.
“We believe the Sussex Kelp Forest will now show the benefits of removing damaging fishing gear from large areas around the UK coastline and offshore.”
Scientists and volunteer divers have collected baseline data on the remaining small pockets of Sussex kelp, to help measure any positive changes that could result from the settlement, experts said.