Help Our Kelp - Byelaw Update

23 January 2020 | Posted in Re-wilding , Marine
Help Our Kelp - Byelaw Update
Kelp Forest © Andy Jackson

By Henri Brocklebank

Director of Conservation 

The pioneering campaign to restore a vast underwater Kelp forest off the Sussex coast achieved its first major milestone, as the introduction of a critical new byelaw has been agreed.

The new byelaw, which will see trawling excluded from a vast 304 km2 of Sussex coastline year-round, was agreed by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) on 23 January. The decision was made following an extensive consultation period, which saw overwhelming support demonstrated by almost 2,500 people in response to the Help Our Kelp campaign.

Sussex IFCA’s decision brings the first ever marine Kelp rewilding initiative one step closer, and aims to give the kelp the breathing space it needs to recover. Over time, repeated passes by trawling vessels have torn kelp from the sea floor and prevented natural regeneration, so the alleviation of this major pressure is the critical first step towards recovery.

The new byelaw must now be passed to the Secretary of State at Defra for approval before it can be implemented, so the Help Our Kelp Partnership now wish to see it signed off quickly before another year of trawling damages the seabed in this vulnerable in-shore zone.

Kelp once stretched along 40 km of the West Sussex coastline from Selsey to Shoreham, forming an underwater forest that extended at least 4 km seaward. It provided a vital habitat, nursery and feeding ground for seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster, sea bream and bass. It locked up huge quantities of carbon, helping us to fight climate change, while improving water quality and reducing coastal erosion by absorbing the power of ocean waves.

But within living memory, kelp in Sussex waters has diminished to almost nothing. Storm damage, changing fishing practices and the dumping of sediment spoils by dredging boats have taken their toll on this sensitive habitat. The wildlife associated with it has all but disappeared, and the vital ecosystem services it provided have been lost – but there is now a chance to bring it all back.

To support the Help Our Kelp campaign visit

Help Our Kelp film, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, created by Big Wave TV


  • Kevin Leedham:

    23 Jan 2020 17:17:00

    Must protect the natural environment

  • Susan Bramwell Smith:

    23 Jan 2020 17:21:00

    This is an essential piece of legislation and would help the environment as much as a forest on land.

  • Joanna Wyatt:

    23 Jan 2020 17:23:00

    This is really good news. I have no idea how long it takes for the kelp to regenerate but it’s a major step in the right direction. Also, I am not sure if the Ransomes wind farm is within the exclusion zone. There are some small, local trawlers which also fish off our shore and they are anxious not to be put out of business. Perhaps they could swap fishing methods to help with conservation and restoration of the sea bed?

  • Joanna Wyatt:

    23 Jan 2020 17:37:00

    The “Help Our Kelp “ logo would make a great addition to the T Mill t shirts designs. Are there any ways in which members of the public can get involved with the project? I am retired from a human, clinical career….but I did Marine Biology at A level.. and I live close to the Sussex Coast.

  • 23 Jan 2020 17:39:00

    Fantastic news! Let’s hope the government passes the bye-law and the kelp can grow for our futures. Please let me know if you need any further support or help.

  • Zara Morrison:

    23 Jan 2020 18:05:00

    Our British kelp fields are vital for a healthy coastal sea, offering shelater, breeding grounds for our local aquatic sea life.

  • Maggie Parker:

    23 Jan 2020 18:08:00

    Excellent – well done Sussex IFCA.
    Does it help to write a personal letter to Secretary of State at Defra to request approval ?

  • Steve Carrington:

    23 Jan 2020 18:40:00

    Fantastic effort we must do more of this thing to protect our natural environment and ecosystems

  • dawn nelson:

    23 Jan 2020 19:00:00

    We need natural environment to maintain healthy environments, just because most of us don’t see the kelp forest doesn’t mean they are any less vital.
    Please support this campaign to save and maintain them.

  • Anthony Morris:

    23 Jan 2020 20:33:00

    Excellent news, but we need to keep the pressure up to ensure the Kelp forest restoration becomes a reality. You have my enduring support.

  • Gill:

    23 Jan 2020 20:33:00

    Wonderful news about the new byelaw!
    Thankyou everyone


    24 Jan 2020 07:37:00

    Amazing news , hopefully the by-law will be implemented sooner rather than later .

  • Laura:

    24 Jan 2020 08:04:00

    Great news! Hope it gets implemented quickly. I remember the sea full of kelp at Felpham, now it’s mostly empty which is tragic. We need to regenerate the kelp forest. Thanks for running this campaign.

  • Nicole:

    24 Jan 2020 12:20:00

    Great news about the byelaw being passed. Your campaign has my full support. I have wonderful memories of diving in the kelp forest off Monterey Bay, which was teeming with wildlife. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a haven for marine wildlife could be restored here in Sussex.

  • 24 Jan 2020 13:51:00

    Fantastic news! Let’s hope the government passes the bye-law and the kelp can grow for our futures. Please let me know if you need any further support or help.

  • Steve Sandell:

    24 Jan 2020 16:57:00

    There are many area’s where the kelp has gone that have never been trawled due to the type of seabed the temperature of the sea probably has more to do with it. I speak as a former fishermen

  • Phillip Ellis:

    24 Jan 2020 17:39:00

    I only hope the rotting and fly ridden seaweed does not return to Worthing beach after storm events. A huge problem in the 1950’s

  • Vik Cooke:

    28 Jan 2020 18:22:00

    Excellent news!! This government must pass the bye-law so that kelp can grow for the future health of the oceans, our coastal areas andprovide healthy breading grounds for aquatic life, and combat climate change for our children growing up and their children.

  • Donna Rattray:

    29 Jan 2020 12:08:00

    Great news but still needs to be signed off. Is there an email campaign to show our support and make sure the new legislation is passed quickly by DEFRA?

  • Claire Laila Dines:

    30 Jan 2020 11:53:00

    We must make this happen!
    It is vital!
    For us!
    For nature!
    For our planet!

  • Jacqueline Nicholls:

    30 Jan 2020 12:26:00

    Shame it wasn’t in place last year when the foreign trawlers were fishing just off the Isle of Wight.

  • Tony Chapman:

    30 Jan 2020 13:09:00

    Having scuba dived extensively off the south coast I have witnessed what the seabed looks like and it largely resembles a ploughed field, the destruction is heartbreaking. How can we moralise to other nations about their responsibilities toward coral reefs and rainforests when this is on our doorstep, we must act now!

  • Norma Ratcliff:

    30 Jan 2020 13:20:00

    Brilliant news.

  • Linda Sims:

    30 Jan 2020 13:21:00

    A great film! We must do what we can to bring back more of the kelp forest.

  • Gemma Hooper:

    30 Jan 2020 15:03:00

    I’ll find out how I can best help this to happen. Great and encouraging news.

  • Pat Winter:

    30 Jan 2020 15:24:00

    This is wonderful news, and thank you so much, SWT, particularly Henri, the Sussex IFCA and the supporters of Help our Kelp. Like the rainforests, these kelp forests support a huge diversity of creatures, including fish, that would just not be there without the kelp and other algae.
    In reply to JW’s comment, maybe the foundations of the wind turbines supply a stable anchorage that algal holdfasts need.

  • Jackie Haggis:

    30 Jan 2020 19:13:00

    Well done to all of us who care.
    I wonder if the Ransomes Wind Farm would sit comfortably within the kelp forest. It would be wonderful if it could. How can we set up some testing for this?

  • Carina M:

    31 Jan 2020 16:15:00

    It’s worth it even if rotting and fly ridden seaweed returns to Worthing beach after storm events. Nature is not purely there for us over numerous and hugely destructive humans – not do we have a human right to lay it waste.

  • Heather Hedges:

    02 Feb 2020 09:11:00

    Thank goodness I’m a member of Sussex Wildlife Trust or I wouldn’t have known about this devastation on my doorstep! Well done the Trust and Sussex IFCA. I’m trawling all my contacts with news of the campaign: Secretary of State/Defra must be in no doubt of the need for super fast bye law approval.

  • Susan Haycocks:

    03 Feb 2020 09:24:00

    Thanks to Heather I have been made aware of this disaster. It is vital we campaign to save the kelp growing on our shoreline

  • John Cox:

    06 Feb 2020 16:19:00

    We have been unable to purchase from our local fishermen any lobsters or crabs for over a year now as their catch from the Bognor Rocks is virtually nil.
    The same family of fishermen have been catching shellfish off of the famous rocks for over 250 years. The proposed kelp forest along the West Sussex coastline is fantastic news and I trust that Defra will not stand in your way.

  • Roderick Leslie:

    07 Feb 2020 18:22:00

    People are worried about what we are going to eat in the future – but restoring our fisheries can dramatically increase the fish we could harvest, alongside the restoration of our devastated coastal ecology and biodiversity. A really important project for nature – and so much more.

  • 09 Feb 2020 13:37:00

    What a great initiative. I really hope it can happen!

  • Joshua:

    19 Feb 2020 14:51:00

    This is great

  • Linda Lonnqvist:

    27 Feb 2020 15:39:00

    Congratulations on a great step! Is there anything we can do to ensure DEFRA passes it into legislation? Fingers crossed!

  • eric smith:

    20 Mar 2021 14:48:00

    I am 73 years old and have been diving in the Sussex Bay since I was 11 years old sometimes over a hundred times a year. I am an eyewitness to the destruction of the ecosystem caused by the indiscriminate Inshore Trawling over the last 40 years. The vast kelp beds prominent in the area up until 1987 held together an ecosystem unique to the British Isles with shallow water out as far as 6 miles, the perfect breeding ground for many species of flora and fauna.
    The trawlers paired up to pull massive nets through the area in 1988 and every year after that since then 97 % of the area has been reduced to an underwater desert.
    After thirty years of campaigning to force them out to sea and give the inshore breeding grounds time to recover, Sussex IFCA on January 23rd, 2019 passed a new byelaw, which will see trawling excluded from a vast 304 km2 of Sussex coastline year-round, this was agreed following an extensive consultation period which saw overwhelming support from 2500 people in response to a campaign led by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
    The new byelaw has been passed on to Defra for signing off but as, yet nothing has happened. Due to Covid 19 the trawlers have not been out so often and the difference in biodiversity in our area is quite remarkable.
    This is part of an article I wrote in 2005 to show what is happening in our bay.
    April 17th, 2005 Bognor a dive to stick in the memory, we had suffered quite a few dives that year in the cold water of early spring with few fish and bad viz, this was the first day that the water felt warmer and with the viz at twenty foot it held a lot of promise. We found the Bream quite quickly spotting their moon beds dug into the chalk from the surface. The sea was alive with fish the smaller bream were doing the digging fanning the bottom to create the hollows and the bigger fish moving in to lay their eggs or fight over the right to. Undulated Rays were laying around the outskirts of the beds feeding on the worms and other small crustaceans disturbed by the bream along with vast shoals of Pollack up to two kilos drifting above the scene. We lay looking at this panorama with Cuckoo Wrasse nosing around us the Bass came through in shoals some weighing in at eight pounds. We ended the day with a couple of good Bass each and two bream of over two kilos and left feeling good at seeing the sea so alive with fish and with intensions of returning a week later, on better tides to take some specimen fish.

    April 24th, 2005 the sea was calm, and we had started at first light under the old adage that the early diver catches the fish. As we pulled the boat up onto the promenade two pair trawlers could be seen towing out to sea at an angle alongside the main reef less than a mile out. Slipping into the water 30 mins later a scene of total devastation could be seen below us in the crystal-clear water, no fish could be seen in our field of vision the bream beds so prolific the week before were wrecked, the edges of the beautifully dug pits had been dragged down and large boulders had been dumped into the middle of them. Torn weed lay about the bottom and all that remained were a few very small bream trying to rebuild their nests. We followed the trawlers that were now some two miles ahead finding many small Bass of about 200 grams floating dead on the surface having popped out of the now full nets.
    I hope this gives a bit of clarity to what is happening in our local and many other areas from this destructive way of fishing.

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