Leading the way: from Lyme to California

Here we have the first instalment on the Lyme Bay – Morro Bay #GAP2exchange. Simon Pengelly, of the Southern Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) discusses why Lyme Bay, Dorset, is such an important area, and what is being done to both sustainably fish and maintain healthy ecosystems in this pioneering reserve…

I work for Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA), one of the 10 IFCAs that are responsible for managing the exploitation of sea fisheries resources within the English inshore waters. It is Southern IFCA’s responsibility to ensure that when managing the fishing activities within the inshore waters of Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, on the South coast of England, there is a balance between environmental and fisheries sustainability, with consideration for associated socio-economic outputs.

Hand dived scallops © Katrina Borrow

Hand dived scallops © Katrina Borrow

The species rich bedrock and stony reef habitats of Lyme Bay form an important part of the Dorset marine ecosystem, supporting a diverse range of fish and shellfish species, many of which are of commercial importance for the area’s fishing fleet. The designation of an area of Lyme Bay as a Special Area of Conservation has highlighted the importance of this environment on the European stage. In consequence, as a Special Area of Conservation there has been large spatial closures of bottom-towed fishing gears including scallop dredging and trawling. In light of this, we must continue working with the local fishing community, to ensure that the on-going fishing activities are sustainable and do not damage the sensitive reef habitats. The formation of Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve has enabled Southern IFCA to start to achieve this.

The Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve is a group of fishermen, conservationists, scientists and regulators, brought together to improve the sustainability of the marine environment and local fisheries, and to increase the financial viability of the area’s historic and mostly under 10 metre fishing fleet. The project has been successful in bringing together these often-conflicting interest groups, with all parties working together to improve the way in which the Lyme Bay Special Area of Conservation is fished. The group understands the need for information and evidence when making important management decisions and over the past three years a number of experts have taken part in discussions and reported their findings allowing the group to consider the full impact of its actions.

Going overboard © Katrina Borrow

Going overboard © Katrina Borrow

The information gathering continues: members of the Lyme Bay fishing community are undertaking a study with Plymouth University to consider the impacts of shellfish potting on the area’s species rich reef habitats. In fact, the group’s fishermen believe that real-time information is of such importance that they have embarked on a project to document their daily fishing activities in great detail. This has been achieved with, the mostly under-10 metre, vessels of all group members being fitted with a high grade vessel monitoring system, which will work in collaboration with specially designed gear tracking tags to provide regular and accurate positional reporting to pin point where the members are fishing. In addition to the detailed mapping of fishing activities, the fishermen wish to record details about the environment within which they are working, including not only what they are catching but what they return to the sea, and even what they may see on any given day. But how can this be achieved?

An information reporting application is seen by the group as the most cost effective and achievable reporting option. Succorfish, a provider of land and water-based tracking systems, have been tasked with developing a tool that is robust and effective enough to meet the needs of the Lyme Bay fishing community. It was at this moment that we heard about the work that the Morro Bay Fishermen are doing with The Nature Conservancy to document and communicate real-time fishing related data in order to enhance their fishing opportunities through ensuring minimal impacts on sensitive species.

Boats lining the Cobb © Katrina Borrow

Boats lining the Cobb © Katrina Borrow

Three representatives from the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve are now heading to California to learn more about how the Morro Bay fishermen use new technology to protect the marine environment and open fishing opportunities. As one of this group of three I hope to learn about the practical use of the app and how regulators can use the information gathered to improve the management of fisheries. In addition, I am looking forward to discussing how regulators develop and implement fisheries management within Marine Protected Areas, with the use of fisheries-specific research.

I hope that the experience of meeting people with a range of interests in Californian fisheries will broaden my personal understanding of fisheries management. This will provide me, and the other two Lyme Bay members, with new ideas that we can introduce to the Lyme Bay group, so that we can make a positive contribution to the way in which we manage our special marine environment. Not only that, I also hope that my experience of Californian fisheries management will benefit other fisheries within the Southern IFCA District, enabling me to replicate the positive relationships between Lyme Bay users elsewhere.

Please click here to view ITV Westcountry New’s footage of the Exchange Project!

@GAP2_project / #GAP2exchange 

For further information on this exchange, please contact Katrina Borrow onKatrina@mindfullywired.org

 

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