The Devon Wildlife Trust had been working hard with local fishermen since the early 1990s, and voluntary agreements had been set up voluntary agreements whereby trawlers and scallop dredgers would not work in the most fragile reef habitats. However, it was clear that the situation in Lyme bay was continuing to deteriorate. Fortunately major changes to rectify this were also happening. Following a lengthy consultation process, with proposals submitted by the Natural England, Conservation NGOs (in particular the Wildlife Trusts) and the fishing industry, DEFRA announced that an area of some 60 square nautical miles in the central part of Lyme Bay was to be closed to mobile fishing gear by Statutory Order.
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In 2008, the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) closed an area of Lyme Bay, some 60 square miles in extent, roughly 10 per cent of the bay, to mobile benthic fishing gear. We’ve known for a long time, at least the late 1980s, that such heavy gear could be highly destructive to some reef species, especially fragile or soft tissued attached species such as sponges and soft corals. What we found was even more disturbing, not only were areas of reef being scraped clean of attached life, the very stucture of the reef was changing.
I’ve started creating a dedicated gallery of stock images documenting the seabed habitats and species of Lyme Bay. This gallery will include Lyme bay Reefs, for which the Lyme Bay Closed Area was set up to protect, and will catalogue the diversity of these reefs, but will also document some of the interesting sedimentary habitats which usually fail to receive the attention they merit. These and more Lyme Bay images can be seen here.
Five days ago the skipper/owner of a Brixham based trawler/scallop dredger, the Kelly Marina II (BM454) was convicted and fined for using towed bottom-fishing gear (apparently scallop dredges) within Lyme Bay Closed Area, a 60 nautical mile exclusion zone for such gear. This Closed Area was established for conservation reasons (the first and so far only one established for such reasons in U.K. waters), specifically the rocky reefs that occur in the Bay and their associated fauna.