A major milestone has been reached in the campaign to restore the vast underwater kelp forest which used to stretch from Selsey to Shoreham.
A new byelaw which will see trawling excluded from a vast 304km2 of Sussex coastline year-round was agreed by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority last week.
The decision was made following a consultation period, in which almost 2,500 people supported the Help Our Kelp campaign run by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
The campaign was supported by Sir David Attenborough, who voiced a promotional film for the project – read more here.
Kelp, a group of brown seaweeds, once stretched along 40km of the West Sussex coastline, providing a vital habitat, nursery and feeding ground for seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster, sea bream and bass, and locking up huge quantities of carbon.
But the kelp population has now diminished to ‘almost nothing’ and the wildlife associated with it has ‘all but disappeared’, a spokesman for the Sussex Wildlife Trust said.
Repeated passes by trawling vessels have ‘torn kelp from the sea floor’ and prevented regeneration, so the alleviation of this pressure is the ‘critical first step towards recovery’, the spokesman said.
The new byelaw must now be passed to the Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for approval before it can be implemented.
The Help Our Kelp Partnership said they wished to see it signed off quickly before another year of trawling damages the seabed.