Turning the tide

, 22 March 2021
Turning the tide
Kelp Forest © Andy Jackson

By Tor Lawrence

Chief Executive

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.

Please continue to support Help Our Kelp

Leave a comment


  • Nick Phillips:

    Great news! Well done to everyone at SWT who worked on this and to all those like myself who added their name to the lobby.

    22 Mar 2021 14:23:00

  • A wonderful achievement; the first, I hope, of many in returning the Sussex coast to a thriving and respected marine environment

    22 Mar 2021 17:46:00

  • Ian Cairns:

    Is Seaford Bay and the heritage coast of Cuckmere and Seven Sisters included?

    22 Mar 2021 17:49:00

  • Jane:

    What about East Sussex?

    23 Mar 2021 14:02:00

  • Fantastic news! Congratulations to all concerned, a vital piece of work.

    23 Mar 2021 14:29:00

  • @Ian Cairns: The byelaw area covers out to 4Km from the mean high water springs between Selsey Bill and Shoreham-by-Sea. Either side of this, a 1Km area is covered by the byelaw as far as Chichester Harbour to the west and Rye Harbour to the east

    23 Mar 2021 16:36:16

  • @Jane: The Help Our Kelp project is focusing on the area between Selsey and Shoreham as that is where historically there was a kelp forest, and our aim is to restore what was once there. We do not currently have plans to extend the project further than this, however Sussex Wildlife Trust is committed to protecting our coastal and marine environment across the whole of Sussex.

    Outside of this area, from Chichester Harbour to Rye Harbour, a 1km are is covered by the byelaw

    23 Mar 2021 16:39:21

  • Louise Goldsmith:

    A promising start for reviving kelp forests.

    25 Mar 2021 07:19:00

  • Celia Cadwallader:

    Yes, great news indeed! What is the position along the rest of the Channel coast?

    25 Mar 2021 11:53:00

  • Carly Murphy-Merrydew:

    Well done!!! this has made my day/ week/ year…

    25 Mar 2021 12:22:00

  • Owen Mitchell:

    Wonderful news and well done to all who made it happen…including the minister who signed it off.
    it doesn’t stop here though…we now need to ensure the rules are policed and enforced….then it will be a major success.

    25 Mar 2021 15:39:00

  • Robin Charman:

    There is an area about a mile off Brighton beach known to divers as the reef. Not so many years ago it was full of life and colour, and was beautiful. But has now been denuded of fish and plant life and evidence of actual damage of the structure of the reef.
    So it is absolutely brilliant news to hear about the trawling ban. I understand the area was declared a designated conservation area years ago, but it wasn’t policed, so I sincerely hope it will be now.

    25 Mar 2021 16:26:00

  • Joanna Wyatt:

    In answer to those in other, coastal areas, many people are keen to see their in shore waters protected and restored. It is hoped that the Sussex Help our Kelp project will inspire and assist with the necessary expertise to roll out similar partnerships and projects in your area too. So, please keep in touch.

    25 Mar 2021 18:11:00

  • Chris Geddes:

    Will this byelaw result in more seaweed washing up on our beaches or will it have the opposite effect?

    26 Mar 2021 06:40:00

  • Absolutely brilliant news, a breakthrough for coastal habitat conservation. Congratulations on your success, may it be the start of a national shift in how our vital kelp forests are protected.

    26 Mar 2021 08:00:00


    great news so far, but what about lobster, crab, whelk pots, can these still be used in this restricted area? At Eastbourne there are literally hundreds of pots in the fishermans area which if used in this area will undoubtedly cause large scale damage.

    26 Mar 2021 08:57:00

  • Susan Hirst:

    Well done

    31 Mar 2021 06:59:00

  • Louise:

    What about all uk sea shores?!

    03 Apr 2021 08:51:00

  • Pete Wakeford:

    Brilliant news, sadly 4km is not enough. We need to stop the excess fishing methods being used these days. We see massive trawlers off our coast, coming from countries far and wide.
    We need a ten mile ban to protect our fishing. The government has already caved in with the European bigwigs, it beggars belief so many of our fish are being ground down for use as fertiliser, it’s just criminal.

    16 Apr 2021 18:59:00