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Sussex Kelp Recovery Project
© Big Wave Productions

Community stories

The people supporting Sussex kelp

The SKRP is a collective journey, bringing together a wide network of people and organisations, with a common vision for nature recovery on a grand and pioneering scale.

Here are just a few of their stories.

Eric Smith: Diver and campaigner

Eric Smith delights at finding kelp washed up on the beach again during the winter of 2022. © Eric Smith

Brighton born Eric Smith started diving from the age of eleven and has dived regularly ever since. Observing the kelp beds and marine life over so many years, he was devastated to witness the terrible destruction that trawling brought about. Having campaigned for the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw,  Eric now documents, educates on and inspires people about kelp’s recovery as part of the Sussex Underwater Facebook Group. He also stars in a beautiful new documentary by Big Wave Productions: The Man Who Loves Kelp.

I have dived in Sussex Bay for 64 years and have seen it at its best in the 1950s and 1960s, right through to the almost complete destruction of a whole ecosystem. I started writing letters twenty years ago telling the authorities the changes I was seeing underwater, and this was the starting point that led to the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw. The recovery we are seeing now can only be described as miraculous. My dream is that it will lead to a further bans on trawling worldwide.

Marianne Glascott: Doctoral Researcher, University of Sussex

Marianne Glascott: Doctoral Researcher, University of Sussex.
© Marianne Glascott

Marianne holds degrees in Climate Change, Development & Policy and Environmental Physics. She is currently leading a PhD study to understand the Suspended Particulate Matter in Sussex Bay and its impact on kelp recovery.

Sussex Kelp is worth every ounce of love and care we can give it. It would transform our coastal environment for the better for everyone and everything that lives on it, in it and beside it. 

Dr George Balchin: Senior Research Officer, Sussex IFCA

IFCA staff.
© Sussex IFCA

George holds a PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Sussex and now works for Sussex IFCA leading on several research and monitoring projects, including those related to the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw and the associated recovery of kelp habitats

Spatial management of bottom-towed gears aims to promote the recovery of kelp beds, and other associated habitats, therefore protecting the important nursery grounds and complex communities of marine life. In turn this will hopefully help secure increasing levels of biodiversity and sustainable fisheries into the future.

Sarah Cunliffe: CEO and Founder of Big Wave Productions Ltd

Sarah Cunliffe.
© Big Wave Productions

Sarah is a film-maker with a special interest in all things marine. She founded Big Wave which makes award winning documentaries for broadcasters worldwide.  Based in Brighton their shows often make real-world change including amending laws and generating new scientific revelation, which makes them really proud.  Known for her powerful story-telling, Sarah made Sir David Attenborough's 'Help Our Kelp' campaign film.  

Sussex has a special connection for me as I studied the marine life here and remember how beautiful the vast kelp forests were.

Clive Mills: Fishermen, Bognor Fishing Association

Clive Mills fishing.
© Clive Mills

Clive is a fourth generation fisherman from Bognor which once supported hundreds of fishing boats. Clive witnessed first hand the decline of fisheries in Sussex and when his catch could no longer support his income, he - like so many others - reluctantly left the profession in 1999. The introduction of the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw has Clive given hope for the future and he returned to the sea in 2021. Clive reports that fish stocks are returning since the Byelaw and he is on a mission to promote sustainable fishing and revive Bognor’s beach fishing fleet with it.

My father-in-law taught me a lesson early on – ‘you can’t keep fishing for today, you’ve got to leave something for tomorrow’. Those words really mean a lot to me, we need to be looking after what we’ve got because there ain’t a lot left.

George Short: Kelp Recovery Co-ordinator

George Short.
© George Short

George holds degrees in Marine Biology from Aberystwyth University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and has spent her career in research and conservation studying the impacts humans are having on the marine environment. She is the Kelp Recovery Coordinator at Sussex Wildlife Trust working on the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project advocating for, and enabling the recovery of the lost kelp beds of Sussex.

Having spent years researching and documenting the degradation of the marine environment, it’s incredible to be part of this pioneering effort, using scientific evidence to make real change for both wildlife and the community in Sussex.

Dr Chris Yesson: Research Fellow, Zoological Society of London

Man on boat in hard hat.
© Chris Yesson

Chris is a benthic ecologist with an interest in a wide variety of seabed habitats from temperate seaweeds to polar cold water corals. Chris is documenting the distribution and vulnerabilities of these habitats and has led on the analysis of the towed camera surveys in Sussex since 2019. He is also interested in how kelp populations are interconnected along the south coast and is leading a project to examine kelp genetics around Sussex. 

I am passionate about life on the seabed and its importance for the health of our seas in Sussex and the wider UK.  It is my hope that a successful Sussex recovery story can inspire others to care for and protect marine environments.

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