On 6th June the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority ran a drop-in event for anglers at the ECA where they explained their proposals for the Utopia Marine Conservation Zone and asked for our opinions. I met Barry Goodhew, one of the Sussex IFCA officers who also happens to be the angling liason officer and a keen sea angler himself. Barry was very helpful in explaining the proposals and the more general activities of the Sussex IFCA as they apply to sea anglers.

In summary, the MCZ was designated in January 2016 but no rules have been put in place yet. The area is considered worthy of protection because of the delicate nature of life on that part of the seabed, and the belief that this area is used by tope and other elasmobranchs (i.e. shark, dogfish and ray families) as a breeding ground. The proposals are to protect the sebed from damage from commercial fishing, and protect elasmobranchs particularly while breeding. Here are the proposals:

  • Ban towed gear (trawling) all year
  • Ban netting all year
  • Potters must return any elasmobranchs caught in pots
  • Anglers to catch and release all elasmobranchs
  • Ban on tope fishing (and possibly other elasmobranchs) during the breeding season

You can review and comment on the proposals through the web site consultations page

There is also an interesting chart showing the make-up of the seabed in the area, which is useful to know for any angling activity. You can download it here.  You may wonder what some of the terms mean. To save you searching, circalittoral rock (read it carefully, it’s not what you first think) is the rock below the depth of low water level and above the level at which seaweed stops growing – or where only 1% of light reaches the seabed. High energy circalittoral is that rock with loads of things living on it, and medium energy circalittoral rock doesn’t seem as busy. Roughly. I can see why they use long words, it saves explaining.

Utopia MCZ

Keep an eye on the SIFCA web site or here, for further developments.

For reference:

Shark Trust Fact Sheets: http://www.sharktrust.org/en/factsheets

Sussex ICFA web site is http://www.sussex-ifca.gov.uk

Southern ICFA web site is http://www.southern-ifca.gov.uk

The Eastern Solent area we cover on this web site is patrolled by Sussex IFCA east of Chichester harbour entrance and the Southern IFCA west of it.