Trawler fishing banned off part of south coast to help recovery of kelp forests

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Tom Savvides

Underwater footage courtesy of Big Wave Productions

Trawler fishing has been banned in more than 100 square miles of seabed off Sussex to help once-vast kelp forests recover.

It follows a campaign to restore a large underwater kelp forest from Brighton to Selsey.

A new bylaw has been approved to prohibit trawling year-round over large areas along the entire Sussex coast closest to the shore, to help habitats regenerate and improve fisheries, Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) said.

Wildlife groups hope the move, which they say will protect 117 square miles (304 square kilometres) of the coastal seabed, will help with "rewilding" the sea by allowing the underwater seaweed forests to regenerate.

It follows a campaign to protect kelp which was supported by Sir David Attenborough, who has described the approval of the new bylaw as a "landmark decision" for the management of UK coastal waters.

Sir David said: "Sussex's remarkable kelp forests will now have a chance to regenerate and provide a home for hundreds of species, creating an oasis of life off the coast, enhancing fisheries and sequestering carbon in our fight against climate change."

Although a number of factors could be stopping the kelp from re-growing, campaigners say the implementation of the near-shore trawling bylaw relieves that pressure on the area where the kelp grows, giving it a chance to recover.

Henri Brocklebank from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: "It shows us the passion that exists for restoring our marine ecosystems and recognising the value that they give to all of us, from food to the protection of our coastline."