June 20, 2008

Lyme Bay to Get Protection From Fishing Techniques

Damaging types of fishing will be banned in part of a bay to protect sea life, the Government announced yesterday.

Ten per cent of Lyme Bay, in Dorset, home to spectacular reefs, pink sea fans, sunset cup corals and rare species of sponges, will be permanently closed to scallop dredging and bottom trawling from early July.

Fishing using nets near the surface or static nets and lines, along with diving for scallops, scuba diving and sea angling will be allowed, the Department for Environment said.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "Lyme Bay is one of Britain's richest environments, and the measures we have announced will protect reefs and the wildlife that depends on them from the most damaging fishing methods. The environmental benefits will be huge and species under threat will be able to recover and thrive."

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Shaw, who travelled to Dorset to make the announcement, said the decision to protect the area was the kind the Marine Bill would help with in the future.

"The decision to protect Lyme Bay's wildlife shows we are committed to protecting the marine environment. I want to work with people around the coast to establish a national network of marine conservation zones to help protect the richness and diversity of life in our seas."

Some 60 square nautical miles of the bay from West Bay to Beer Head will be permanently closed to fishing which drags nets along the bottom of the sea.

The move to give Lyme Bay protection was welcomed by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which has campaigned for better protection of the UK's seas.

The Society said the Lyme Bay reefs were underwater extensions of the World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast and fishing for scallops using heavy towed metal dredges was badly damaging for the seabed.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt of the Marine Conservation Society said: "In the end, most fishermen and conservationists want the same thing - sustainable fishing which has limited impact on the environment.

"The only way to achieve this is to manage areas of sea appropriate to the vulnerability of the habitat, and to leave some areas completely alone to entirely recover from man's impact."

The MCS, along with a number of other conservation groups, have been calling for a network of marine reserves around Britain's seas - something which is now promised in the forthcoming Marine Bill.

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