In July 2008 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) closed a 60 nm2 area to bottom towed fishing gear. The main reason for this was to protect the benthic biodiversity in the bay, eg the species at the bottom, in particular to maintain the structure of the reef system and to enable the recovery of the bottom living invertebrates. The closure was specific to the use of bottom towed fishing gear and the area remained open to sea anglers, scuba divers, other recreational users and fishers using static gear such as pots and nets.
From 2008-2011 the monitoring of the ecological and socio-economic changes that occurred following the closure was undertaken by a consortium led by Plymouth University and funded by Defra. From 2012 to 2014 Natural England and Plymouth University jointly supported the continuation of the ecological component of the monitoring, enabling it to be done annually for a 4th, 5th and 6th year.
Natural England will use the findings from this study as part of our work to monitor the recovery of the Lyme Bay site and where appropriate to guide site management.
This case study may also be of interest to other relevant stakeholders such as the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), Cefas, Wildlife Trusts, Seasearch, local authorities and fisheries.