Over 100 people, from international experts to local fishermen, are gathering at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex on Wednesday November 17th to celebrate and share the journey of the first six months of the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project.
The Kelp Summit will highlight the work of the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project since the landmark implementation of the Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority’s Nearshore Trawling Byelaw in March 2021.
Kelp forms beautiful underwater forests which are some of the most productive and biodiverse habitats on the planet. Over 96 per cent of kelp in Sussex has disappeared since 1987. Years of destructive trawling and other human pressures have decimated this valuable marine habitat that once stretched along more than 40km of coastline from Selsey to Shoreham. The Byelaw covers 300km2 of coastline and the project hopes to recover kelp, marine life and fish stocks.
The Sussex Kelp Restoration Project is a collaboration of partner organisations who have come together to support the restoration of this degraded ecosystem for biodiversity, sustainable fisheries and a healthy and thriving climate resilient coastal community.
Sally Ashby, Sussex Kelp Restoration Project Lead said “At a time of ecological and climate crisis, we have to restore nature at scale. The Sussex Kelp Restoration Project is a shining example of this.”
An inspiring and engaging series of lectures will guide attendees and remote viewers alike through a journey to understand more about these hidden underwater forests and why they are so important for wildlife, food security and to help combat climate change.
Tim Dapling, Sussex IFCA Chief Officer explains “the protection and recovery of essential marine habitats such as kelp is vital for future sustainable inshore fisheries. Kelp habitats provide a key role in the life cycles of both commercial fish and shellfish species living in Sussex waters. The collaborative programme to monitor recovery provides critical evidence”.
Hosted by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the event is being held at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea, thanks to funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The event is a first for the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project – a coalition of local and national organisations including NGOs and academia.
Henri Brocklebank, Director of Conservation at Sussex Wildlife Trust said "The passion to see a healthy restoration of marine ecosystems in Sussex is held by so many sea users and organisations now – the story of the Sussex Kelp has inspired hope that we can see the revival of the depleted wildlife in our seas. The wildlife we see on Blue Planet documentaries – it’s here in Sussex, and we are doing all we can to understand it, protect it and share the journey of its recovery.”
The Kelp Summit brings together international marine experts, local fishermen, youth ambassadors and more to highlight the important work achieved over the past six months. This has included, mapping the remaining kelp, seabed carbon sampling, and benchmarking and monitoring the current wildlife, including commercial species such as Lobster, Bass and Black Sea Bream.
Dr Ian Hendy, marine scientist from the University of Portsmouth said “the Sussex Kelp has galvanised academics from across specialisms to contribute to this exciting journey. Today we will hear of some of the astounding work that has already been taking place, and from national and international experts, setting our Sussex work in its global context.”
The summit will feature the premiere of two short films by Big Wave TV highlighting the work not only of the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project scientists but also a preview of ‘The Man Who Loves Kelp’ which tells the powerful journey of 73-year-old local free-diver Eric Smith who has been free-diving in Sussex waters since the 1950s.
The Sussex Kelp Restoration Project is led by a partnership of:
- Adur and Worthing Councils
- Big Wave Productions
- Blue Marine Foundation
- Marine Conservation Society
- Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
- Sussex Wildlife Trust
- University College London
- University of Brighton
- University of Portsmouth
- University of Sussex
- Zoological Society of London