Chance lost to gain early fishing safeguards

bexhill sea angling festival prelim 2012
bexhill sea angling festival prelim 2012

ANGLERS and fishermen in Bexhill and Hastings are angry that proposals for a Marine Conservation Zone in their area have missed the cut for consultations.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has shortlisted 31 out of 127 proposed MCZs to go out for public comment between now and March.

But Beachy Head East, a triangular area running east from the famous promontory to the Sovereign Light and then landward to Hastings, is not among them.

Defra says it needs more scientific evidence before it can be considered, but local stakeholders fear that could be too late.

They see the proposed zone as an important nursery area for fish stocks, and in particular want it placed off-limits to beam trawlers, which use heavily weighted nets - stone mattresses - that scour the seabed.

This is a threat to reefs and mussel beds which in turn provide food for plaice and other species caught off the East Sussex coast.

Over the past 18 months a Balanced Seas project has achieved a consensus among fishermen, sea anglers and conservationists anxious to protect the area.

Disappointed Bexhill angler Steve Hanks, proprietor of Sackville Road tackle shop Hook, Line and Sinker, said: “Our recommendations haven’t got to the consultation stage.

“I want to see a sea full of fish that my grandchildren can enjoy, but if the young stock, rock strata and underwater flora and fauna off Bexhill get destroyed by methods such as beam trawling, there’s not much hope of that”

Hastings fisherman and industry representative Paul Joy said: “It is very frustrating after a year and a half of talks, some often lasting two or three days at a time, that we seem no further forward with something that could have serious repercussions for the future.

“We shall continue to press the case for marine protection in this area.”