Helping Our Kelp

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Coolstays supported 4 kelp survey sites along the Sussex coastline in 2023.

Coolstays chose to continue taking action towards protecting marine life in 2023, by sponsoring 4 kelp survey sites on the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project. For the second year running, Coolstays worked with GreenTheUK to fund innovative research led by Blue Marine Foundation and University of Sussex. This report outlines the findings from the 2023 survey report and includes footage from Coolstays survey sites.

Sites 14 to 17 were supported by Coolstays.

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Coolstays supported 4 kelp survey sites along the Sussex coastline in 2023 to monitor the recovery of marine habitats and species following the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw using Baited Remote Underwater Video.

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Summary

The waters off the Sussex coast historically supported dense kelp beds of mixed seaweed with at least six different species of kelps and other large brown macroalgae. However, since 1987, over 96 percent of the kelp beds in Sussex have disappeared. Years of intensive bottom trawling and other human pressures such as poor water quality and sedimentation, as well as severe storm events had decimated this valuable marine habitat that once stretched along more than 40 km of coastline, from Selsey to Shoreham.

To help protect essential fish habitats and remove one of the key barriers to kelp recovery the Sussex IFCA Nearshore Trawling Byelaw was introduced in March 2021. The Byelaw excludes trawling from over 300 square kilometres of seabed, removing a key pressure from the area, and giving kelp a chance to recover. The Sussex Kelp Recovery Project (SKRP) was launched to support and enable the natural recovery of kelp and essential seabed habitats in the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw area.

One of the aims of the SKRP is to understand the ecological, social and economic value of kelp and the Sussex IFCA Nearshore Trawling Byelaw. This will allow benefits from the Byelaw and associated impacts to be evaluated and quantified. This programme is undertaken in collaboration with research organisations, regulators, fishermen, conservation groups, marine user groups and local communities.

Annual monitoring aims to record any changes in species diversity and composition following introduction of the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw and the anticipated recovery of kelp habitat. This will inform a better understanding of the trajectory of ecosystem recovery and the value to biodiversity of the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw.

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In 2021, 2022 and 2023, the University of Sussex with support from Blue Marine deployed Baited Remote Underwater Videos at 28 sites along the Sussex coast to assess diversity and abundance of mobile and benthic-associated species within and outside the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw area. In 2023, Coolstays sponsored the cameras at these sites to help fund research and monitoring. Two reference sites at Pullar Bank, off Selsey Bill were surveyed in 2022 and 2023 to compare results with existing kelp-dominated habitat.

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Key Findings

  • A total of 49 vertebrate and invertebrate species were identified in 2021 (25 vertebrate and 24 invertebrate species).
  • A total of 36 vertebrate and invertebrate species were identified in 2022 (22 vertebrate and 14 invertebrate species).
  • A total of 51 vertebrate and invertebrate species were identified in 2023 (27 vertebrate and 24 invertebrate species).
  • In 2023, 14 species were identified that had not been seen in previous years, most were only seen once at one site, but the green sea urchin (P. miliaris) was detected 24 times at four different sites in 2023.
  • There is evidence of a decrease in detection of starfish and brittle stars since 2021.
  • In 2023 an increase in pelagic-neritic species (e.g. Atlantic mackerel, sand eels, mullets) was detected compared to previous years, likely due to the increased number of mackerel schools that were seen in 2023.
  • Detection of black seabream and conger eels were more highly linked to sites inside the Byelaw area and in MCZ-Kingmere; small spotted catshark were linked to sites outside the Byelaw area and in MCZ-Selsey Bill and the Hounds; and rock cook, pollock and ballan wrasse were linked to kelp-control sites at Pullar Bank.
  • The species richness between the three years was not significantly different, but species richness decreased in 2022 and 2023 compared to 2021, potentially linked with increased algal cover which obscures benthic-associated invertebrates.
  • The evenness of the communities is relatively low every year for both invertebrates and vertebrates, suggesting that there are a few common species in high abundance and a lot of species with low abundances.
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Methodology

Study Area

Surveys were carried out at 28 different sites between Selsey Bill (50° 43.325’ N, 0° 46.040’ W) and Shoreham-by-Sea (50° 48.981’ N, 0°12.265’ W), inside and outside the Byelaw area (Figure 1). The sites were chosen to match the towed video transects deployed by Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, to complement their habitat data (Mallinson & Yesson, 2020). Additional sites were surveyed in Swanage (50° 44.272' N, 0° 29.077' W) in 2021 and in Pullar Bank (50°40.530’N, 0°48.828’W) in 2022 and 2023, to provide further comparative information with existing kelp dominated ecosystems.

Surveys were carried out between the 5th and the 21st of July 2021, the 11th and 27th of July 2022 and the 10th of July and the 11th of September 2023. The survey period in 2023 extended into September due to poor weather conditions in late July and August of that year.

There are five treatments:

  • Nearshore Trawling Byelaw (“Inside”) - areas inside the designated Byelaw where bottom trawling is banned and where previous dense kelp beds were present;
  • MCZ-K - Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone;
  • MCZ-S - Selsey Bill and the Hounds Conservation Zones;
  • Open Control (“Outside”) – areas outside the Byelaw area and MCZs; and
  • Kelp control – areas with existing healthy kelp ecosystems
Image Figure 1: Map of the 28 sites along the Sussex Coast that were sampled with BRUVs in July 2021, 2022 and 2023. Note separate deployments of 3 BRUVs were undertaken at Swanage (50° 44.272' N, 0° 29.077' W) in 2021 and in Pullar Bank in 2022 and 2023 (50°40.530’N, 0°48.828’W) for reference against existing kelp dominated ecosystems.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV)

The methodology employed was based on one developed by Plymouth University and used as part of the Lyme Bay MPA (Marine Protected Area) monitoring (Sheehan et al. 2013), to obtain quantitative data on mobile organisms in different experimental treatments.

At each site, three different BRUVs (Figure 2) were deployed 150 m from one another, for 65-70 min before being retrieved.

BRUVs were equipped with 3 GoPro HERO 8 cameras. The settings of the two stereo GoPros facing the bait canister were standardised to be: 1080p, linear and 30 FPS. The third camera was placed to face the back of the rig and set to record a time-lapse series of pictures of the surrounding habitat. The bait canister of each BRUV rig was filled with one semi-thawed and one frozen scad (Trachurus trachurus), which were sliced into 4 different pieces to enhance the strength of their scent.

For each BRUV deployment the following measurements were taken; GPS (Latitude and Longitude), date, time of deployment and depth (based on sonar).

The videos were subsequently reviewed to record the species observed (scientific name/common name), the time observed in the video, the number of individuals and the duration of observation.

The biotype at each site was categorised based on the BRUV footage into categories: gravel-cobbles, mixed sediment, sand, cobbles and pebbles and rocky reef.

The percentage of macroalgal cover was also recorded for each site (0% = 0, 1-20% = 1, 20-40% = 2, 40-60% = 3, 60-80% = 4, 80-100% = 5, 6 = kelp). Data for water temperature and tidal coefficient was also collected.

The maximum number of individuals on screen (MaxN) for each species recorded at each site was used in data analysis. MaxN is considered a conservative estimate of relative abundance, eliminating the chance of counting the same individual multiple times.

Statistical analyses explored Abundance, Species Richness and Effective Number of Species (ENS) between treatment areas (Jost, 2007). Multivariate analyses (CCA) were carried out to assess and visualise the relationship between the community composition and the environmental variables (macroalgal cover, tidal coefficient, depth, treatment, biotype). All analyses were performed using R statistical programme and R Studio with the vegan package.

Image Figure 2: BRUV structure, including the two stereo GoPro Hero 8 cameras (A, B), the third GoPro Hero 8 camera set to time lapse for habitat (C) and the bait canister (D).

Vertebrate species were grouped by niche type (benthopelagic, demersal, pelagic-neritic and reef-associated) using the R package Rfishbase. Invertebrate species were grouped by order: Crustacea, Mollusc and Echinoderm.

Preliminary Results for 2021, 2022 and 2023

Species diversity

In 2023, a total of 51 different species (24 invertebrate and 27 vertebrate species) were identified using BRUV surveys across the 30 sites (28 Sussex sites and 2 kelp control sites) sampled, compared to 49 species in 2021 and 37 species in 2022.

A significant difference in species richness was found between 2022 and 2023.

Analysis revealed that macroalgae cover had a significant negative relationship with observed species richness. Suggesting that, as macroalgae cover increases, observed species richness decreases. There are a few explanations as to why this could be. In 2022 and 2023, the macroalgae coverage was higher which made species identification much more difficult as many invertebrates were covered by seaweed and thus, undetectable on the BRUVs. In 2023, the visibility was also poor at many sites due to high turbidity and sediment levels, further obscuring smaller invertebrates.

Of the species identified over the three years of sampling, 24 species were seen every year (APPENDIX: Table 1).

In 2023, 14 species were identified that had not been seen in previous years:

  • queen scallop (Aequipecten opercularis),
  • common lobster (Homarus gammarus),
  • squat lobster (Munida rugosa),
  • black goby (Gobius niger),
  • greater pipefish (Syngnathus acus),
  • Tompot blenny (Parablennius gattorugine),
  • black-faced blenny (Tripterygion delaisi)
  • black brittle star (Ophiocomina nigra),
  • Prideaux hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux),
  • green sea urchin (Psammechinus miliaris),
  • bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus),
  • grey topshell (Steromphala cineraria), and
  • common tower shell (Turritella communis).

The majority of these species were only detected once across the 30 sites. However, the green sea urchin (P. miliaris) was detected 24 times at four different sites in 2023 (sites 25, 26, 27, 28 – all outside the Byelaw area and three within the Kingmere MCZ).

Image Image 1. Common lobster (Homarus gammarus) reaching for the BRUV’s bait canister.

Abundance

The species identified were classified by order for invertebrates (crustacea, echinoderm, mollusc) and by niche for the vertebrates (benthopelagic, demersal, pelagic-neritic, reef-associated).

Changes in the abundance of species belonging to these different groups have been seen over the last three years. For example, there is evidence of a decrease in the abundance of starfish and brittlestars since 2021. In addition, results show a close to significant increase in pelagic-neritic species (Atlantic mackerel, Scomber scombrus; sand eels, Ammodytidae spp.; mullets, Chelon spp.) between 2021 and 2023 (Figure 4). This is likely due to the increased number of mackerel schools that were seen in 2023.

Image Figure 4: Stacked barplot showing the MaxN (logged) of each species group across the three years of sampling for 28 Sussex sites, providing overview of community composition per site.

Rank-abundance curves were plotted to gain an understanding of the most commonly detected species each year and to explore the change in evenness of the vertebrate and invertebrate communities each year.

The cumulative number of species ranked by their relative abundance within each year of sampling showed some changes over time. The evenness of the communities is relatively low every year for both invertebrates and vertebrates, suggesting that there are a few common species in high abundance and a lot of species with low abundances.

Most abundant vertebrates:

  • 2021 - two-spot goby (Gobiusculus flavescens), bib (Trisopterus luscus) and poor cod (Trisopterus minutus).
  • 2022 - black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus), bib (Trisopterus luscus) and gobies (Pomatoschitus spp.).
  • 2023 - Atlantic mackerel (Scombrus scombrus), black seabream (Spondyliosoma cantharus) and bib (Trisopterus luscus).

Most abundant invertebrates:

  • 2021 - brittle stars (Ophiothrix fragilis), European coweries (Trivia monacha), and topshells (Trochidae spp.).
  • 2022 - brittle stars (Ophiothrix fragilis), common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus).
  • 2023 - brittle stars (Ophiothrix fragilis), common hermit crab (Pagurus bernhardus) and spiny spider crab (Maja brachiopoda).

Discussion

Since the implementation of the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw, relatively little change in species richness and effective number of species has been found within the study area. As the Byelaw was only introduced in March 2021 (2.5 years ago at time of writing) this is not unexpected. Although certain marine ecosystems have been seen to recover in under five years, the full recovery of ecosystems, which have endured decades of degradation, more commonly take a minimum of 15-25 years (Borja et al., 2010). In some situations, ecosystems may never fully recover to their original historical state, but rather end up in an alternate state (Belzunce et al., 2001; Hering et al., 2010). This could potentially happen in Sussex Bay as many other environmental factors have changed (such as increased sedimentation and water temperature) since the late 80s, when dense kelp beds were present in the area. However, our results do suggest that the community structure of the biodiversity present in Sussex Bay has changed since 2021 and that this is driven by macroalgal cover.

Our results suggest that an increase in macroalgal cover appears to correlate with a reduction in species richness. This is a surprising result as macroalgae is known to benefit many organisms, acting as nursery grounds for fish species and a valuable food source for both invertebrates and vertebrate species (Norderhaug et al., 2003). However, this is likely due to increased macroalgae cover affecting the visibility on the BRUV footage, leading to false negatives. The macroalgal cover in 2021 and 2023 was lower than in 2022 which may explain why the species richness in both of those years is very similar (APPENDIX: Figure 1). Poor visibility is one of the biases of using BRUV systems as a biomonitoring method (Unsworth 2014). To address this bias we complement our BRUV surveys with additional biomonitoring tools such as environmental DNA (not discussed in this report).

Several species were identified in 2023 that had not been detected in previous years. This could be a sign of the beginning of an ecosystem shift. However, as the majority of these species were seen in low abundance, further research will be needed to corroborate these findings. There are several other reasons which could explain why these species have not been seen in previous years. Some species may be more cryptic or rare and were potentially only detected by chance in 2023. These species may have simply not been in the area at the time of the BRUV deployments in previous years. The likelihood of misidentification is minimal, thanks to the meticulous identification process conducted by students utilising the "The Diver’s Guide to Marine Life of Britain and Ireland" identification book, which is subsequently cross-verified by staff members.

The green sea urchin (P. miliaris), was the only species that had been detected on more than one occasion in 2023 but not in previous years. It was detected 24 times across four different sites, one outside the Byelaw area and three within the Kingmere MCZ. This may be an indication that this species is becoming more abundant in these sites. As sea urchins primarily feed on algae (Kelly & Cook, 2001), their return may be an indication of increasing algae species in the area. Although they were detected outside the trawling exclusion zone, their potential increase could still be linked to the implementation of the trawling ban as a result of the “spillover effect” (Roberts et al., 2001). It will be important to monitor this species in coming years to assess whether green sea urchins continue to increase in abundance at other sites in Sussex Bay. Additionally, the common lobster (H. gammurus), should also be monitored in coming years. It was only seen once on the BRUVs in 2023, but as it is known that their numbers have been decreasing in the area before the Byelaw was introduced (CHASM, 2022), seeing it now is a positive sign.

In 2023 we saw an increase in pelagic-neritic species (e.g. Atlantic mackerel) compared to previous years due to more schools of fish being detected on the BRUV footage. This may be an indication that schooling fish are returning more frequently to the area since the implementation of the trawling Byelaw. We have also seen a decrease in starfish since 2021. Again, this is likely due to the increase in macroalgal cover reducing the visibility of the seabed and therefore leading to false-negative detections of starfish. Alternatively, it is possible that the timings of the surveys each year have had an effect on the species seen. Sampling in 2023 took place over three months (July, August and the beginning of September) rather than just over the month of July, as in previous years. This was due to poor weather conditions which prevented the boat from going out. As many marine species migrate to shallower waters at different times of year, this may have affected the species detected in 2023 (Sims et al., 2004).

Our results have also highlighted the most common species in the ecosystem each year. These have changed slightly over the last few years of sampling. Notably, there has been a large increase in black seabream (S. cantharus) since 2021. This is an important commercial species for fisheries (Gonzála Pajuelo J M & Nespereira, 2004), therefore, seeing an increase in their abundance is a potential sign that the removal of trawling pressure is having a positive influence on this species.

The analysis investigating the evenness of the communities over the three sampling years also revealed that there are a few common species in high abundance and many species in low abundance. This relationship is known as the distribution-abundance relationship and is commonly seen in most natural assemblages (Preston, 1948). It is important to note that one of the biases observed when using BRUV sampling is the overrepresentation of certain species associated to bait choice (Harvey 2007, Coghlan 2017, Jones 2020). Therefore, although the species detected most frequently and in highest abundance are likely to be present in higher numbers than others in the ecosystem, it is also possible that these are the species which are most attracted to the bait used for these surveys.

Conclusion

From the results of the BRUV surveys over the period 2021-2023, a significant change has not been seen in species richness or ENS in the study area since the introduction of the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw. We are however, seeing certain species which have not been identified in previous years. This may be attributed to randomness but nevertheless, it will be important to monitor the abundance of these species (notably green sea urchins) over time to establish whether they are truly benefitting from the effect of the Byelaw. In addition to this, we are starting to see a slight shift in species composition over the years linked to the abundance of macroalgae, the treatment in which the sites are found and the biotype at each site.

Thank you once again to Coolstays for their support of the Sussex coastline and contributing towards this important research on an essential marine habitat for biodiversity.

References

  • Belzunce, M. J., Solaun, O., Franco, J., Valencia, V., & Borja, A. (2001). Accumulation of Organic Matter, Heavy Metals and Organic Compounds in Surface Sediments along the Nervi on Estuary (Northern Spain). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 42(12), 1407–1411.
  • Borja, Á., Dauer, D. M., Elliott, M., & Simenstad, C. A. (2010). Medium-and Long-term Recovery of Estuarine and Coastal Ecosystems: Patterns, Rates and Restoration Effectiveness. Estuaries and Coasts , 33, 1249–1260. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-010-9347-5
  • Cappo, M., Speare, P., & De’Ath, G. (2004). Comparison of baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS) and prawn (shrimp) trawls for assessments of fish biodiversity in inter-reefal areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 302(2), 123–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JEMBE.2003.10.006
  • CHASM. (2022). Crustaceans, Habitat and Sediment Movement.
  • Gonzála Pajuelo J M, J. M., & Nespereira, L. (2004). Estado de explotación de la chopa Spondyliosoma cantharus (Linnaeus, 1758) en aguas de Gran Canaria (islas Canarias).
  • Hering, D., Borja, A., Carstensen, J., Carvalho, L., Elliott, M., Feld, C. K., Heiskanen, A.-S., Johnson, R. K., Moe, J., & Pont, D. (2010). The European Water Framework Directive at the age of 10: A critical review of the achievements with recommendations for the future. Science of The Total Environment, 408(19), 4007–4019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.05.031
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  • Mallinson, S., & Yesson, C. (2020). Comparing benthic seaweed communities within Sussex in 2019 and 2020 through towed video transects. https://www.sussex-ifca.gov.uk/kelp
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Appendices

Table A1. Species detected and the year(s) in which they were seen.

All Years 2021 2022 2023 2021/2022 2021/2023 2022/2023
Asterias rubens Aplysia punctata Dasyatis pastinaca Aequipecten opercularis Carcinus maenus Calliostoma zizyphinum Centrolabrus exoletus
Buccinum undatum Arctica islandica Glycymeris glycymeris Gobius niger Ctenolabrus rupestris Hyas araneus Corystes cassivelaunus
Cancer pagurus Chelidonichthys lucerna Homarus gammarus Dicentrarchus labrax Labrus mixtus Eutrigla gurnadus
Conger conger Chirolophis ascanii Lineus longissimus Inachus dorsettensis Nucella lapillus Pomatoschistus microps
Gobuis paganellus Diogenes pugilator Munida rugosa Macropodia rostrata Palaemon serratus
Gobiusculus flavescens Doris pseudoargus Ophiocomina nigra Raja clavata
Labrus bergylta Galeorhinus galeus Pagurus prideaux Scomber scombrus
Liocarcinus depurator Goneplax rhomboides Parablennius gattorugine Tritia reticulata
Maja brachydactyla Lipophrys pholis Psammechinus miliaris
Mullus surmuletus Pomatoschistus minutus Scyliorhinus stellaris
Mustelus asterias Trivia monacha Steromphala cineraria
Necora puber Syngnathus acus
Pagurus bernhardus Tripterygion delaisi
Pollachius pollachius Turritella communis
Pomatoschistus pictus
Pomatoschistus spp.
Scyliorhinus canicula
Sepia officinalis
Sparus aurata
Spondyliosoma cantharus
Symphodus melops
Thorogobius ephippiatus
Trisopterus luscus
Trisopterus minutus
Trochidae
Ophiothrix fragilis


Table A2: Species list, group and label

Group Scientific name Sp_Label Common name Group Scientific name Sp_Label Common name
Pelagic Ammodytidae sp. Ammo Sandeel Crustacea Liocarcinus depurator Lide Harbour Crab
Echinoderm Amphipholis squamata Amsq Brittle Star Demersal Lipophrys pholis Liph Shanny
Mollusc Aplysia puncata Appu Sea Hare Crustacea Macropodia rostrata Maro Long-legged Spider Crab
Mollusc Arctica islandica Aris Icelandic Cyprine Crustacea Maja brachydactyla Mabr Spiny Spider Crab
Echinoderm Asterias rubens Asru Common Starfish Demersal Mullus surmuletus Musu Red Mullet
Mollusc Buccinum undatum Buun Common Whelk Pelagic Mustelus asterias Muas Starry Smooth Hound
Crustacea Cancer pagurus Capa Edible Crab Crustacea Necora puber Nepu Velvet Swimming Crab
Mollusc Calliostoma zizyphinum Cazi Painted Topshell Mollusc Nucella labillus Nula Dog Whelk
Crustacea Carcinus maenas Cama Shore Crab Crustacea Pagarus bernardus Pabe Common Hermit Crab
Demersal Centrolabrus exoletus Ceex Rock Cook Crustacea Palaemon serratus Pase Common Prawn
Demersal Chelidonichthys lucerna Chlu Tub Gurnard Demersal Pollachius pollachius Popo Pollack
Demersal Chirolophis ascanii Chas Yarrells Blenny Demersal Pomatoschistus microps Pomi Common Goby
Pelagic Conger conger Coco Conger Eel Demersal Pomatoschistus minutus Pomi Sand Goby
Crustacea Corystes cassivelaunus Coca Masked Crab Demersal Pomatoschistus pictus Popi Painted Goby
Demersal Ctenolabrus rupestris Ctru Goldsinny Demersal Raja clavata Racl Thornback Ray
Demersal Dasyatis pastinaca Dapa Common Stingray Demersal Raja undulata Raun Undulate Ray
Demersal Dicentrarchus labrax Dila Bass Pelagic Scomber scomber Scsc Mackerel
Crustacea Diogenes pugilator Dipu Hermit Crab Pelagic Scyliorhinus canicula Scca Small Spotted Catshark
Mollusc Doris pseudoargus Dops Sea Lemon Mollusc Sepia officinalis Seof Common Cuttlefish
Demersal Eutrigla gurnadus Eugu Grey Gurnard Demersal Sparus aurata Spau Gilthead Sea Bream
Crustacea Galathea spp. Gasp Squat Lobster Demersal Spondyliosoma cantharus Spca Black Seabream
Pelagic Galeorhinus galeus Gaga Tope Shark Mollusc Steromphala cineraria Stci Grey Topshell
Mollusc Glycymeris glycymeris Glgl Dog Cockle Demersal Symphodus melops Syme Corkwing Wrasse
Demersal Gobiusculus flavescens Gofl Two-spot Goby Demersal Thorogobius ephippiatus Thep Leopard-Spotted Goby
Demersal Gobuis paganellus Gopa Rock Goby Demersal Trisopterus luscus Trlu Bib
Crustacea Goneplax rhomboides Gorh Angular Crab Demersal Trisopterus minutus Trmi Poor Cod
Crustacea Hyas araneus Hyar Great Spider Crab Mollusc Tritia reticulata Trre Netted Dog Whelk
Crustacea Inachus dorsettensis Indo Scorpion Spider Crab Mollusc Trivia monacha Trmo European Cowries
Demersal Labrus bergylta Labe Ballan Wrasse Mollusc Trochidae Trtr Topshells
Demersal Labrus mixtus Lami Cuckoo Wrasse - - - -

Citation

University of Sussex 2023. Monitoring recovery of habitats and species following the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw using Baited Remote Underwater Video. A report from surveys in 2021-2023 for Blue Marine Foundation.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Professor Mika Peck, Valentina Scarponi, Alice Clark, and Masters students at University of Sussex for undertaking surveys, data analysis, report editing and Seshi Humphrey-Ackumey for collation of images and footage. Thanks also to Neville Blake, skipper of the New Dawn charter boat. Thanks to all GreenTheUK sponsors for support of this research programme.

This case study was adapted from a report published in December 2023: A collaborative study between Blue Marine Foundation and University of Sussex as part of the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project. The report authors were Sam Fanshawe of Blue Marine Foundation and Alice Clark, Mika Peck and Valentina Scarponi from the University of Sussex, School of Life Sciences, Ecology and Evolution.

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Species this project aims to support

Black Sea Bream : Spondyliosoma Cantharus

Black Sea Bream

All black sea bream are born female, but they can change their sex once they grow to 30cm long, and any fish over 40cm are male! Black sea bream spawn during April and May. Males build nests where females lay hundreds of thousands of eggs.

Bottlenose Dolphin : Tursiops

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins are very intelligent, sociable mammals that travel in small packs and communicate using squeaks and whistles. They can be found swimming in coastal waters all around the UK and can live for up to 50 years.

Common Lobster : Homarus Gammarus

Common Lobster

You might think of lobsters as being red, but in fact that only happens when it is cooked; in the wild, lobsters are blue! They have two pincers of different sizes: one to crush food and one to tear it. Lobsters have very bad eyesight, but an excellent sense of smell and taste.

Common Seal : Phoca Vitulina

Common Seal

The harbour or common seal is both smaller than the grey seal and less prevalent in UK waters. This seal’s blood contains much more haemoglobin than ours, allowing it to stay underwater for around 10 minutes at a time when diving after prey. Seal pups can swim and dive when they are just a few hours old.

Common Sole : Solea Solea

Common Sole

The common or Dover sole is a flat fish that feeds on small worms, molluscs and crustaceans. Both its small eyes are located on the right hand side of its smooth, flat body. In the 19th century, sole was found in abundance in Dover and was considered such a delicacy that special stagecoaches would transport it from Kent to London’s fashionable restaurants.

Cuttlefish : Sepia Officinalis

Cuttlefish

This remarkable creature can change texture and colour either to attract a mate or to help them blend into the background and fool predators. Like its squid and octopus relatives, the cuttlefish is a cephalopod with eight sucker- covered arms and two tentacles. Cuttlefish live in deep water, then move into more shallow areas to mate, and tend to die after they have bred.

Edible Crab : Cancridae

Edible Crab

If you’ve ever been rock-pooling on one of the UK’s glorious beaches, the chances are you’ve encountered the shore crab. This common crustacean can grow up to 9cm wide and is usually either green, orange or red. The edible brown crab, meanwhile, is around twice that size and thousands of tonnes of edible crabs are caught annually in the English Channel.

Grey Seal : Halichoerus Grypus

Grey Seal

Just under half of the grey seals in the world can be found in British coastal waters. Pups are quite small at birth but put on weight quickly as they develop blubber to help them deal with the cold. Their Latin name means “hook-nosed sea pig”.

Kelp : Laminariales

Kelp

Kelp is the general name for about 30 different types of large seaweed growing along cold coastlines in the Northern Hemisphere. Dried sugar kelp used to be hung up outside to help forecast the weather; if it went soft, it would rain and if it stayed crisp, conditions were likely to remain dry. Giant kelp can grow as tall as 30m, creating thick underwater forests.

Lumpsuckers : Cyclopteridae

Lumpsuckers

As the name suggests, this fish is so chubby that it is almost spherical and has suckers on the underside of its pelvis. Female lumpsuckers lay their eggs near the shore and then swim out to sea, but the males stay with the eggs for more than a month, guarding them from predators until they hatch. Lumpfish roe can be harvested and made into caviar.

Small-spotted Catshark : Scyliorhinus Canicula

Small-spotted Catshark

This small shark is also known as the “lesser-spotted dogfish” or the “rock salmon”, which is how it is listed on fish and chip shop menus.You’ll find it living close to the seabed in shallow waters all around the UK’s coastline. Its egg-casing is nicknamed “the mermaid’s purse”.

Sugar Kelp : Saccharina Latissima

Sugar Kelp

If you have ever ventured onto a British beach, you’ll almost certainly have come across the long, crinkly ribbons of seaweed known as sugar kelp. Sugar kelp grows all around the UK’s coastline and is particularly prevalent in rockpools. It is rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and contains the natural sugar mannitol which is used as a low-calorie sweetener and in some medicines.

Whelk : Buccinum Undatum

Whelk

The common whelk is found all around the UK’s coast and is the largest sea snail found in British waters. It lives on sandy seabeds where it lays its eggs and uses its long proboscis to feed on other molluscs. Whelks have conical shells, which are often used for shelter by hermit crabs, or found washed up on our beaches.

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