July 30, 2008

University Will Monitor Lyme Bay Exclusion Zone Impact ; The Lyme Bay Exclusion Zone is to Be Monitored By Westcountry Scientists After They Won a Major Pounds400,000 Defra Contract.

The Lyme Bay exclusion zone is to be monitored by Westcountry scientists after they won a major pounds400,000 Defra contract.

The scientists, led by marine biologists from the University of Plymouth, will now monitor the ecological and socio-economic impact of the 60 sq m exclusion zone.

Almost 10 per cent of Lyme Bay, one of Britain's richest marine habitats, has been permanently closed off to scallop dredging and bottom trawling in a bid to protect the area's reef habitats.

The move, imposed on June 11 by Defra with support from the Devon Wildlife Trust, is aimed at protecting the bay's marine biodiversity, which includes rare pink sea fans, sunset cup corals and sponges. It is the country's largest ever closure of a marine area to protect wildlife.

The University of Plymouth and its partners have been contracted to monitor the impact of the ban by assessing the recovery of the wildlife and analysing the social and economic impacts on the affected communities.

Over the next three years, the team of experts will use state-of- the-art underwater video technology to monitor and record the change in abundance, size and biomass of various marine species and compare these with areas where fishing is allowed to continue.

The findings will then act as a conservation tool to inform future environmental management of marine areas in the UK and marine spatial planning in the South West region.

The impact on the affected local communities will be examined by reviewing current social and economic issues and interviewing local stakeholders about their perceptions.

A cost benefit analysis will then be conducted to help improve the level of understanding of the social and economic impacts of marine protected areas.

The information collected as part of the study will help inform the completion of future Impact Assessments.

Professor Martin Attrill, who is co-ordinating the pounds400,000 bid, said Defra had chosen the best possible team for the job.

He said: "The contractors within the tender for this project - the University of Plymouth Marine Institute, Marine Biological Association and Plymouth Marine Laboratory - are all within the Plymouth Marine Sciences Partnership (PMSP), which has a unique ability to undertake this work in Lyme Bay.

"PMSP has an unparalleled experience of the ecology, fisheries and socio-economics of the Lyme Bay area, with a range of ongoing projects from the health of pink sea fans to assessing the economic and ecological value of the habitats for marine conservation.

"We can also deploy state-of- the-art underwater video and diving facilities, backed up by high levels of expertise in the marine biology, ecology and socio-economics of the area."

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