New film shows positive impact of trawling ban on Sussex coast

A new film released by conservation charity Oceana showcases the positive impact of inshore trawling bans on the Sussex Coast.

A film released earlier today (December 16) by conservation charity Oceana reflects the positive effects of inshore trawling bans on the Sussex Coast.

The film comes after the introduction of a bylaw which bans inshore trawling along the coast, protecting 170km2 of environmentally valuable shoreline.

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Prior to the ban, the film suggests, years of underwater trawling had destroyed underwater kelp forests which destroyed habitats protecting a range of species and served as a valuable defence against global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide.

A still from Oceana's film

Steve Allnut, a West Sussex ocean free diver and activist who shoots underwater footage off the coast said he hopes "that Sussex is the beginning of a massive domino effect across the rest of the UK.

"I've seen for myself how quickly the kelp and other marine life can bounce back when it’s left alone by trawlers. While it’s really encouraging, it’s also devastating to think about the destruction that’s still happening to the rest of the UK’s oceans and marine life. The Government must follow Sussex’s lead and ban bottom trawling from 0 to 3 nautical miles off the rest of the coast and in all marine protected areas (MPAs).”

The film has been released after the UK government announced it will licence more than 1,000 EU and UK fishing vessels, allowing trawling to continue in MPAs into the new year.

Bottom trawling involves towing heavy gear along the seabed, which often involves destroying the habitats and ecosystems of the animals living there.

Bottom trawling of this kind is currently permitted in more than 97% of the UK's MPAs. The government has committed to adopting fisheries management in all MPAs by 2024 but, at current rates, Oceana has predicted the fishing method could continue to be licenced in unprotected areas until 2050.

“We need an immediate ban on trawling and dredging in all offshore Marine Protected Areas as well as the inshore zone," said Melissa Moore, head of UK policy at Oceana in Europe. "To continue to license this destructive activity, when we know the damage it causes and that it is illegal under various environmental laws, beggars belief. A simple license condition should prohibit fishing in MPAs. We need to protect our marine habitats and in return many will also help protect us from climate change by sequestering and storing carbon.” 

The charity is now calling for an inshore trawling ban across the UK, hoping it will go someway towards preventing a 'climate and ecological crisis'.

An Oceana spokesperson said: "By leaving the inshore area for low-impact fishers such as crab and lobster potters, and banning scallop dredging and bottom trawling that damage inshore habitats, this zone will provide an important nursery ground for fish that will help restock further offshore. It will also see the recovery of blue carbon habitats of kelp, reefs and seagrasses. "