Help Our Kelp – Byelaw update (23.01.2020)
The pioneering campaign to restore a vast underwater Kelp forest off the Sussex coast achieved its first major milestone today, 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.
Help Our Kelp
Sussex campaign launches first ever marine kelp rewilding initiative with support from Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough lends his support to a pioneering campaign to restore a vast underwater kelp forest off the Sussex coast. He voices the stunning Help Our Kelp campaign film, showcasing the wealth of wildlife to be found in this diverse habitat and the substantial environmental benefits it can bring.
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.
Now there is a chance to bring it all back.
Sir David Attenborough says, “The loss of the Sussex kelp forests over the past 40 years is a tragedy. We’ve lost critical habitat that is key for nursery grounds, for water quality and for storing carbon. This marine rewilding project, if approved, will ensure the Sussex seas remain healthy for generations to come, and could have far-reaching impact for other parts of the UK coast.”
The vital first step is to give the kelp some breathing space to recover. To achieve this, the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) is proposing a new local bylaw to stop trawling within 4 km of the coast. If the bylaw is approved, the marine rewilding project can truly begin.
Dr. Sean Ashworth, Deputy Chief at Sussex IFCA says, “If we want healthy seas that are sustainable for wildlife and fishing for generations to come, we urgently need to give our kelp forests a chance to regenerate. The introduction of a new bylaw to restrict trawling along the Sussex coast is critical, and we are now seeking comment and support from the local community to make sure this happens.”
The Help Our Kelp campaign, including the spectacular film created by Big Wave Productions, aims to rally enthusiasm for Sussex IFCA’s proposals at this crucial stage. It is led by Sussex Wildlife Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and the Marine Conservation Society, who are now urging the public to respond to the consultation (which closes on 10 October) to ensure the proposed new bylaw receives sufficient support. Once the trawling management is in place, the partnership will be able to take forward the first ever marine kelp rewilding initiative to restore one of the most productive habitats on Earth.
Dr. Ian Hendy, Head of Science at Blue Marine Foundation says, “The Help Our Kelp campaign presents an opportunity to do something truly amazing. By rewilding the remarkable Sussex kelp forests, our coastal waters will come alive with a wonderful diversity and abundance of marine wildlife, and we will replenish the local fisheries that so many people depend upon.”
Sarah Ward, Living Seas Officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust says, “As well as providing huge long-term benefits for biodiversity, this pioneering rewilding project will help us to fight climate change. Kelp forests can absorb and lock up carbon just as effectively as woodland, if not more so, and we’re able to create this habitat on a scale that simply couldn’t be replicated on land. This will be a huge step forward in addressing the escalating climate crisis.”
Alice Tebb, Project Coordinator at the Marine Conservation Society says, “Local fishermen used to row their boats off the beach before starting their engines to get clear of the kelp. Now, the kelp is gone and fishermen are reporting fewer fish. Restoring the local kelp forest would bring back this vital fish nursery and feeding ground, helping important commercial species to recover and thrive. The Help Our Kelp campaign will benefit local people now and in the future.”
The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) was created in 2010. The Sussex IFCA is funded by East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, and Brighton and Hove City Council. The Sussex IFCA is tasked with the sustainable management of inshore sea fisheries resources within its District that extends 6 nautical miles seaward from the Sussex coastline. www.sussex-ifca.gov.uk
Blue Marine Foundation
Known as BLUE, this UK registered charity was set up in 2010 by some of the team behind the award-winning documentary film ‘The End of the Line’. BLUE is dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing. Its mission is to campaign against over-fishing and for the effective protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. www.bluemarinefoundation.com
Sussex Wildlife Trust
Formed in 1961, Sussex Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity for everyone who cares about nature in Sussex. We look after 32 nature reserves across the county and focus on protecting the wonderfully rich natural life that is found across our towns, countryside, coastline and in the sea. We have more than 35,000 members and provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy and experience nature, helping wildlife to thrive in the most unlikely places. www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk
Marine Conservation Society
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores, and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide and the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch. www.mcsuk.org