By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
In June I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to assist Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) with their small fish surveys at Rye Harbour. These surveys are conducted every year at various locations along the Sussex coast with an overall aim to gather information about the inshore fish community.
So what’s the point of all this, I hear you ask! The short answer is that fish are really important – in particular to our economy and the wider environment. The variety of fish we find in our waters support a range of fisheries which provide fish for our dinner plates; fish also play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning as a component of both marine and estuarine food webs. Furthermore, we can use some species as indicators of environmental changes – for example, changes in water temperature or water quality.
The near-shore zone, where the surveys take place, is particularly important for a variety of small fish – these include species which live their whole lives there as well as juveniles of commercially important species which use the near-shore as nursery grounds. At Rye Harbour, these small fish communities are also of huge importance as a food source to a number of birds – in particular the Sandwich, little and common terns, which use the shingle beach as a nesting site.
Using seine nets, we found a number of different species, including juvenile flat fish, gobies, weaver fish, and even a pipefish! It was amazing to see how many fish can be found inhabiting the waters so close to the beach – as well as numerous other species we found, including shrimps, crabs and sea gooseberries.
You can read the full report of the 2016 survey on the Sussex IFCA website.