West Sussex trawling ban could bring marine life flocking back to our coast

A new law banning trawling close to the West Sussex shoreline could see marine life come flocking back to our coast.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 2:28 pm

The Nearshore Trawling Byelaw was approved by the Government today, protecting an area 4km seawards stretching west from Shoreham to Selsey Bill. It will also encompass the marine conservation zone known as Selsey Bill and the Hounds.

Until the late 1980s the area held extensive kelp beds that supported an abundance of marine life, including important commercial fish and shellfish species such as bass, sole, black seabream, lobsters and cuttlefish.

Much of the kelp was lost to trawling, but the new byelaw brought forward by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) will pave the way for the vital habitats to return.

PPP-201006-152516003 © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

A spokesman for Sussex IFCA said the new measures reflect an ‘ecosystem approach’ towards fishers management, recogognising the importance of healthy marine habitats in supporting long-term healthy commercial and recreational fisheries.

In addition to the fisheries benefits that recovering kelp provides, said the spokesman, 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.

Chief fisheries and conservation officer for the authority Tim Dapling said: “The authority has spent several years carefully working toward the introduction of this important new management measure. There has been great interest and support within Sussex and the wider marine community regarding our work to both protect the marine environment and promote sustainable commercial and recreational fisheries.

“This is a key step toward more sustainable fisheries and delivery of positive outcomes for all. Future work will include assessing habitat recovery, biological productivity and benefits to the inshore fishing community.”

Trawling is a form of fishing whereby boats drag large nets behind them through the water, often at great depth.

Doctor Sean Ashworth, deputy chief fisheries and conservation officer at Sussex IFCA, said the authority was delighted that the local community and central government recognised the ‘critical importance’ of looking after Sussex marine wildlife and the local fisheries that depend on it.

“We look forward to seeing a regeneration of the lost kelp forests and an associated improvement of the inshore fishery,” he said. “The result is a testament to local management involving all stakeholders.”

Last year, the Greater Brighton Economic Board set out ten climate change pledges aimed at developing green growth in the area.

The board, which includes the councils of Worthing, Adur, Arun, Mid-Sussex, Crawley and Lewes as well as Brighton and Hove, included the creation of kelp forests off the Sussex coast as one of its ten steps.

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