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‘Most British fisheries are unsustainable’: but not in Lyme Bay

  • by JW

“This is something we could really work with.”

“There’s plenty more sustainable fish in the sea beyond the big five, you just need to know where to look.” [Daily Telegraph]


As reported in the Telegraph, most British fisheries are unsustainable. But as they helpfully suggest, there’s plenty more sustainable fish in the sea beyond the big five, you just need to know where to look:

It’s a statistic to make the heart of any British seafood lover sink. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has declared only one in eight of British fisheries sustainable, out of 337 wild fisheries operating around the British Isles. That’s 13 per cent of our fisheries labelled ‘green’, signalling the most sustainable choice according to its Good Fish Guide. TheMSC’s rating system is designed to help consumers identify and buy seafood caught sustainably from healthy fish stocks and avoid those overfished or caught in an unsustainable way….

The Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve is a Marine Reserve in Lyme Bay in which multiple uses such as fishing are allowed as long as none are damaging to the seabed or to nature conservation:

Our mission is to forge links between fishermen, conservationists, regulators and scientists in order to maintain a healthy, productive and sustainable Marine Reserve within the bay. Our vision is to achieve a well-managed Marine Reserve within the bay that will benefit fishermen and conservationists alike. The Reserve has three wins; to implement best practice in protecting the biodiversity of Lyme Bay, to implement best practice in managing fish and shellfish stocks and in creating long-term benefits for coastal communities around the bay.

The Dorset and East Devon Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) is a key part of this project; and it’s keenly supporting the Marine Protected Area:

Full of colour and teeming with life, Lyme Bay’s reefs are key part of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which covers over 310 sq km of seabed. The MPA protects places like rocky and stony reefs as well as vast fields of seafans, rare corals and abundant fish and shellfish populations. Together, these make Lyme Bay Reefs hugely popular with local fishers, anglers and divers for either commercial or recreational activities. Marine biologists carry out important research and monitoring work within the MPA helping to ensure its management strategy has a positive effect.

As the Telegraph says, “there’s plenty more sustainable fish in the sea beyond the big five, you just need to know where to look”. And Sidmouth Trawlers is a fishmonger well-known in the area for the excellent quality of its locally caught fish and shellfish:

We offer a range of fresh local fish, including Brill, Dover Sole, Lemon Sole, Plaice, Dabs, Mackeral, Whiting and many other varieties according to seasonal catches.

The fishing family is also an integral part of Sidmouth’s Fishing Heritage, as covered by the Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub. 

Looking to the latest addition to that determined focus on local, sustainable fishing, there is the multi award-winning Ebb Tides, who have uncovered the gem of the tides…delicious seaweed:

Founded by Tony in 2016 Ebb Tides prides itself in hand-harvesting the very best varieties of Seaweed including Dulse, Kelp, Sargassum & Laver to be used in everyday cooking. It’s even been given the seal of approval from local top award-winning chefs. From beans on toast to seared salmon our Seaweed compliments any food and even tastes delicious in smoothies.

And as such they were winners of a 2023 Sustainable Sidmouth Champion Award.

Finally, as suggested by a commentator, “This is something we could really work with. Next time’s Awards? Should we be looking at work documented over a two year period?”

Look out for further initiatives on local sustainable fishing in Lyme Bay:

Lyme Bay is a Blue Marine flagship project, proving that sustainable fishing can co-exist with conservation. One of the largest marine protected areas in the UK, with over 90 square nautical miles protected from dredging and trawling, the Reserve preserves rocky reefs and the largest colony of pink sea fans in the British Isles. The collaborative model, initiated in 2012 by Blue Marine and local fishermen, brings fishermen, conservationists, researchers and regulators together to manage the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve, and support local small-scale, static gear fisheries within sustainable limits. 

2020 marked ten years since the Lyme Bay marine protected area was designated. This landmark was celebrated with the launch of a short documentary-film – ‘Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery’. The film showcases how listening, learning and finding common ground between fishing communities and conservationists can create a win-win model for sustainable marine management.