Beachy Head fishery management consultation ends

Looking towards Beachy Head East from Shoreham
Sussex Wildlife Trust wants an exclusion of bottom-towed fishing gear to be exended [BBC]

A public consultation into banning bottom trawling to the east of Beachy Head has concluded.

There has been a ban on dragging fishing equipment along the sea bed off West Sussex since March 2021, which conservationists say has had a major impact on efforts to protect and restore sensitive species.

The Sussex Inshore Fishing and Conservation Authority wants to ban trawling in much of the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) to the east of Beachy Head.

It said: “In order to secure a balance between the social, environmental, and economic objectives of fisheries management…we propose a zonal approach to towed gear management, which protects sensitive habitats and promotes sustainable fishing practices.”

The zones designated at Beachy Head East
The IFCA identified the zones based on evidence of protected features at the site [Sussex IFCA]

The authority opened a consultation into its proposal to introduce two zones within the MCZ.

Zone 1 would exclude all bottom-towed fishing gear.

Zone 2 would not exclude any kind of fishing, but vessels operating bottom-towed gear would have to be fitted with a vessel information and monitoring system.

In response to the consultation, the Sussex Wildlife Trust said it backs an exclusion of bottom-towed fishing gear, but wants the exclusion to be extended across the whole MCZ.

The IFCA said it identified the two zones based on evidence of protected features at the site. It said Zone 2 had "more resilient" habitats and features.

It said: “We have worked with Natural England to develop management of the site, ensuring the ecosystem is protected as far as it can be, whilst retaining some access for fishing activities that will not impact the conservation objectives.”

'Sustainable fisheries'

Sarah Ward, marine conservation officer at the Sussex Wildlife Trust said: "We feel that the exclusion should be extended across the whole MCZ.

"Space for nature should be prioritised within protected areas."

The Angling Trust also called for a "whole-site approach" to prohibiting towed gear which would benefit species, habitats and support both recreational and low-impact commercial fisheries.

The IFCA said: “We are listening to stakeholders and are prepared to amend regulation if suitable information and evidence is provided.

“We have considered the impact on commercial fishers through our impact assessment, and retained access for fishing activities where the type of gear will not impact the designated features of the site, in line with our objective of maintaining and promoting sustainable fisheries.”

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