NEW bylaws to protect marine habitats including Lyme Bay have been welcomed as ‘some of the best conservation management’ in the area.

“It will make a huge amount of difference,” said Emma Rance, marine conservation officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust. She was referring to two new bylaws introduced by the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) which cover 25 per cent of coastal waters off Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The Bottom Towed Fishing Gear bylaw manages trawling and dredging and the Prohibition of Gathering (Sea Fisheries Resources) in seagrass beds applies to bait collectors and hand gatherers working in seagrass beds. Lyme Bay, pockets of Poole Harbour with areas of seagrass, and Studland to Portland are among the area covered by the new bylaws, which carry maximum court fines for contravention of £50,000, although warnings and fixed penalties can be issued by the IFCA.

The European Marine Sites cover sensitive reefs which are home to slow growing sea fan corals, while the Whitley Lake seagrass stabilises the seabed as well as being the habitat of seahorses, pipefish and nursery grounds for a number of commercial fish species.