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Pioneering scientific marine study launched at Lyme Regis
A PIONEERING scientific marine study has been launched in Lyme Bay to help secure the future of the local fishing industry.
In the first project of its kind in the world, the fishermen are working directly with the scientists to guarantee access to the resource.
The three-year Lyme Bay Experimental Potting Project will assess a sustainable level of fishing using static gear, such as pots and nets, by controlling activity in test areas.
Lyme Bay was designated a Marine Protected Area in 2008 banning dredging and trawling from a 200 square kilometre section of the reefs, but the use of static gear has been allowed to continue.
Local small-boat fishermen are concerned that more static gear has moved into the area since the closure and have been working with Blue Marine Foundation as the Lyme Bay Working Group to develop their own code of conduct.
Markers outlining the area at Lyme Regis were put in place this week.
Charles Clover, co-founder of Blue, said: “This is a major scientific study designed to secure the fishing industry's right to fish in Lyme Bay on a sustainable basis, so is in the public interest and the interest of fishermen.
“Everything that is happening in Lyme Bay is happening with the direct collaboration with local stakeholders and, uniquely for a study of this kind, fishermen themselves.”
Fisherman Alex Jones, who uses static gear on his boat Silver Spirit, is supporting the study. He said: “We need science to back up what we are saying, to prove we are not damaging anything.
“It's a way of not just keeping the fishing communities alive but to give them some control over their future.
“Fishermen want and need to be able to prove that what they are doing is sustainable and we have got a chance to do that here.
“The science that we do here can then be used all around the country.” The study will involve areas being fished to varying degrees, as well as control areas where no fishing will take place.
The £300,000 project has been funded by Defra through the Lyme Bay Working Group and scientists from Plymouth University's Marine Institute are leading the study.
The fishermen will help by collecting some of the experimental data through pot sampling.
Professor Martin Attrill, director of the university's Marine Institute, said: “This is the first time ever in the world that a project is actually defining different areas where we can regulate where the amount of potting goes on and we can see the impact that is having.
“And it is novel that the fishermen are involved with the scientists in collecting the data.
“They will be able to demonstrate that the very low level that they work at is not having a major impact on the environment and they have an extra stamp of authenticity in terms of fishing sustainably in the Marine Protected Area.”