By Tor Lawrence
Today the new Nearshore Trawling Byelaw has been announced. This is a major milestone for Sussex and we are thrilled. As a result of this byelaw, trawling will be excluded from the West Sussex Nearshore waters out to 4km. Our local and national decision makers have made real space for nature.
We know that kelp is just hanging on in small patches in this area where it was abundant in only recent memory, the declines taking place since the late 1980s. We are determined to enable the kelp forest to restore and recover across this huge area of of Sussex coast.
How did we get here?
The byelaw was signed off locally by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) board exactly 15 months ago, and since then, alongside Brexit and a Pandemic it has been with our national bodies - The Marine Management Organisation and Defra - and finally with the Secretary of State to sign off.
From the original Sussex consultation in 2019, momentum was unprecedented. Conservationists and others have been passionate about supporting the Sussex IFCA byelaw process. Starting with the inspirational Big Wave Productions producing a beautiful film explaining the Byelaw which Sir David Attenborough narrated. This resulted in an unprecedented 2,500 people showing their support for the byelaw - the local fishery statutory process. The Help Our Kelp Partnership formed, with Sussex Wildlife Trust working alongside the Blue Marine Foundation, the Marine Conservation Society, Big Wave Productions and Dr Ian Hendy from the University of Portsmouth. This has demonstrated to us yet again, how powerful it is to bring together the expertise of different organisations. Together we have gained the backing of our Sussex MPs, Ministers and Senior Government Advisors, many of whom have approached the Secretary of State directly on our behalf to show their support. Locally and nationally this has been accompanied by many letters encouraging the signing of the byelaw, going straight to the Secretary of State himself. Thank you to all those of you who supported us with this.
During this long wait we have been working alongside numerous academics and researchers, mapping out the monitoring that will be needed ecologically and socio-economically, to demonstrate the impact of the byelaw into the future. This research is new and innovative and we look forward to working alongside these experts, developing our understanding of this crucial habitat for many years to come. Meanwhile other Sussex organisations, who can see the benefits that our restored marine habitats can bring have been contributing to our combined thinking on the future of the kelp restoration. It would be too long a blog to mention everyone, but Adur and Worthing Councils deserve a special mention for their passion for the kelp restoration, and vision for what this means for them and their residents into the future.
So, stage one of the journey is complete. We enter this next stage standing shoulder to shoulder with a whole host of individuals and organisations that are passionate about what the future brings. The coming years will see thousands of people engaged in what is happening under our waves. No longer is this area ‘out of sight or out of mind’. It is the area we are all watching, to see what happens, now that nature has been given a real chance to do what it does best.
Sussex Wildlife Trust will share this journey with our supporters and members, updating you on what is happening on the seabed over the coming years. We will continue to work with others to find funding for the long-term monitoring and research that is required and gradually understand the changes that are happening on the seabed.
We will continue to strengthen the case for nature and everything that it provides us.
You can watch a recording of our online webinar Rewilding the Sussex Kelp Forest with Sarah Ward and Dr Ian Hendry to find out more about this exciting project.