This new bylaw aims to recover seaweed forests in the West Sussex region
The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Sussex IFCA) has recently approved a new bylaw that prevents trawl fishing in over 100 square miles (around 260 square kilometres) off the West Sussex coast.
The bylaw is the result of a campaign supported by Sir David Attenborough.
The trawl fishing ban is necessary because the West Sussex shore had a massive kelp forest during the late 1980s, and due to excessive trawl fishing over the past few decades, the seabed got disturbed.
Due to the continuous disturbance of the seabed, the natural regrowth of kelp got hindered, resulting in the degradation of seaweed forests.
The kelp forest is a habitat for different marine creatures such as seahorses and sharks, and deforestation has led to a decrease in the marine life population.
Wildlife groups are hoping that by banning trawl fishing in the region, the seaweed forests will regrow, and over time, the marine population will also improve.
The total protected area is 117 square miles (304 square kilometres) of coastal bed.
The increase in marine population is not the only benefit of kelp forests. The seaweed forests are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world. While they provide feeding grounds to lobsters, crabs, cuttlefish, bass, sea bream, and various other species, they also help reduce ocean acidity and carbon flows.
Indeed, there may be other factors limiting the regrowth of kelp forests. Still, implementing this new bylaw would help alleviate the pressure on kelp growth, thus providing it an excellent chance to recover.
Sir David Attenborough has called the approval of this new bylaw a “Landmark decision” for the UK coastal waters management.
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The broadcaster and naturalist also described the new protection as a “vital win” in the fight against the nature and climate crises before the major international climate summit, Cop26, being hosted by the UK this year.
As recently as the 1980s, extensive, dense kelp beds stretched 25 miles (40km) along the West Sussex coast between Shoreham-by-Sea and Selsey Bill and at least 2.5 miles (4km) out to sea.
The deputy chief fisheries and conservation officer for Sussex IFCA, Dr Sean Ashworth, said: “We are delighted that the local community and central government have recognised the critical importance of looking after Sussex marine wildlife and the local fisheries that critically depend upon it.
“We look forward to seeing a regeneration of the lost kelp forests and an associated improvement of the inshore fishery.”
Charles Clover, executive director of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “We welcome the signing of the Sussex bylaw, as it is a recognition by government that rewilding the sea is a way to protect marine biodiversity, invest in inshore fisheries and store carbon at a single stroke.
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