The 'Help our Kelp' campaign has had a huge response, following its launch at the start of October. It was helped by the production of a stunning film narrated by supporter, Sir David Attenborough which revealed the vital role that the kelp forests of Sussex can play in increasing biodiversity and reducing the impact of climate change.
Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow nutrient rich saltwater near coastlines around the world and according to Dr Ian Hendy, from the Blue Marine Foundation, globally it can absorb around 600 million tonnes of carbon a year, which is twice as much as the UK emits annually! Kelp also purifies water and provides vital shelter and breeding grounds for seahorses, cuttlefish, sea bream and bass and reduces coastal erosion by absorbing the power of ocean waves. Once forming an underwater forest that extended at least 4km seaward and stretched along 40km of the West Sussex coastline, from Selsey to Shoreham, in just over 30 years just a few small patches and individual plants remain. Storm damage, changing fishing practices and the dumping of sediment soils have all contributed.
The film, by award winning wildlife documentary film makers Big Wave Productions, explores the wealth of wildlife that can be found in this diverse habitat and the substantial environmental benefits that Kelp forests can bring. It was shown on BBC's The One Show and picked up by a variety of media.
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."
Dr Sean Ashworth, deputy chief at Sussex IFCA, said: "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 byelaw 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 consultation, which closed on 10th October 2019, attracted a vast amount of supportive responses and the IFCA are currently collating and analysing the responses. The next stage will be to consider any amendments to the proposed byelaw, before being them put before their committee and then applying to the Minister for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.