Encouraging signs for Sussex Kelp
Dr Ray Ward
In March this year, we received the fantastic news that Sussex IFCA’s Nearshore Trawling Byelaw was signed into law, following over a year of extensive campaigning by the Help Our Kelp Partnership and our supporters. Trawling is now excluded from a large area of Sussex coast line year-round, which will give the once dense Sussex kelp forests a chance to recover and regenerate.
Dr Raymond Ward, principal lecturer at the University of Brighton, dives regularly all along the Sussex coast. In a guest blog, Ray tells us of some encourage signs that kelp is already starting to bounce back in our waters.
“I have been surveying a number of sites along the Sussex coast over the past five years. This spring there seems to have been a boom in Sussex kelp, including Saccorhiza polyschides (Furbelows kelp) and Saccharina latissima (Sugar kelp) off Worthing, and Saccharina latissima (Sugar kelp) at Widewater Reef off Shoreham. Both of these species grow rapidly and can reach up to 4m in length. Already they have reached just under a metre in only 4-5 months. They provide an excellent three-dimensional habitat supporting a range of marine species, as well as decreasing wave energy and storing carbon, both vital ecosystem services for climate change mitigation.
With the new byelaw, there has been a removal of the degrading pressure caused by trawiling, which bodes really well for broader regeneration in this de facto marine protected area. What we’d really like to see is a boom in the more persistent kelp species Laminaria digitata (Oarweed kelp) or Laminaria hyperborea (Tangle kelp) too, although this current regeneration is a great start. This is the best condition that the site has been in over five years of surveying there.
There are a wide range of species that can be seen at Widewater Reef including clingfish, seahorses, pipefish, rockling, undulate ray, catsharks, plaice, flounder, top knot, blennies, wrasse, lobster, squat lobsters, crabs species, anemones, conger, squid, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, bass, mackerel and the occasional seal plus loads more. These species can all be found in the area now covered by the byelaw. I suspect that this is going to be another near shore boom year for Sussex marine life, some of the most under-rated diving in the country.”
Dr Raymond Ward is a principal lecturer in coastal environments at the University of Brighton and an avid diver. You can usually find him underwater or up to his elbows in coastal mud with his research on global change impacts to coastal ecosystems. He’s been diving all over the world, from Arctic Russia to the tropics, and more recently, all along the Sussex coast, which he loves! He has been a strong supporter of the Help Our Kelp project which is chaired by Sussex Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Marine Conservation Society, Blue Marine Foundation, University of Portsmouth and Big Wave Productions.