In Sussex, just a few hundred metres from busy coastal towns like Shoreham-by Sea, Worthing and Bognor Regis, a story of hope is emerging, as historic kelp forests lost for decades are beginning to flourish, demonstrating the ocean’s ability to recover when it’s protected from destructive fishing activity such as trawling.
On the UN International Day of Forests (21 March 2023), the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project, a coalition of seven local and national organisations, celebrates its second anniversary with first-hand accounts of “unbelievable changes in fish and bottom structure,” with sightings of Electric Rays and Trigger Fish, unseen in the area for decades. The project has been championed by local communities, academics, NGOs and statutory bodies all coming together with the same aim - the recovery of Sussex’s kelp forest.
Kelp forms beautiful underwater forests which are some of the most productive and biodiverse habitats on the planet. In northern Scotland, they are home to seals and, as documented in the first episode of David Attenborough’s Wild Isles, the largest predator native to UK waters – Orcas (Killer Whales).
In Sussex, an extensive kelp forest once stretched along more than 40km of the coastline between Shoreham-by-Sea and Selsey Bill. Tragically, by the start of the 21st Century, over 96 per cent of the kelp bed had disappeared, bar a few small patches. Having survived huge storms for centuries, the kelp didn’t return after the storm of 1987, following years of trawling and other human pressures decimating the seabed, which kelp depends on to colonise.
Two years ago, a local fisheries management byelaw was passed, stopping the fishing method of towing trawls along the seafloor. The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA)’s Nearshore Trawling Byelaw now excludes trawling from 304km2 of Sussex seabed to protect essential fish and marine habitats and support sustainable inshore fisheries.
Posted On: 21/03/2023