Councils set to lease Queen’s seabed to restore marine biodiversity
The Crown Estate, which manages the land, owns the coastal seabed off the coast of the United Kingdom at a distance of 12 nautical miles.
Adur and Worthing Councils said in a Release that the lease “could pave the way for an ambitious plan to create a Sussex Bay Marine Park along the entire county coast, east and west, to protect vital marine life, restore the habitat of the estuary and even create a destination for ecotourism ”.
They added that the lease would allow them and their partners to create a “blue kelp carbon investment product,” where government agencies such as the Environment Agency, water companies and other companies could invest in kelp forests.
Kelp – the name given to a group of brown algae – was historically abundant along the West Sussex coast, but has declined over time.
Councilor Edward Crouch, Executive Member of the Worthing Borough Council for Digital and Environmental Services, said: “This is a potentially revolutionary project that would help us reduce carbon emissions, restore beautiful marine and estuarine habitats. and maybe even make Sussex Bay a destination for a whole host of sustainable marine activities ”.
Fully restored kelp forest off the Sussex coast could capture carbon emissions equivalent to 66 million miles driven in a diesel family car or the carbon emissions of over 7,000 homes.
Earlier this year, an inshore trawling regulation introduced by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority was approved by the Secretary of the Environment after lobbying from the Help Our Kelp campaign, spearhead by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
At the time, Sir David Attenborough hailed the move as a “landmark decision”.
As a result, trawling is now banned year-round on 300 square kilometers of seabed, and the councils are seeking to establish a Sussex Bay Trust to attract investment in the growth of the kelp forest, potentially to cover the entire coastline of Sussex.
Commenting to ENDS the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) which was involved in the Help Our Kelp campaign said: “The settlement removes one of the pressures that resulted in the loss of over 95% of the historic kelp beds in the area, but there are others, such as the dumping of sediment waste and climate change, which can hamper recovery.
“We are currently developing a larger Sussex kelp restoration project to work with others, including the Adur and Worthing councils, to give the protected area every chance to recover naturally. This includes monitoring the natural recolonization of kelp and associated marine life in the area, minimizing other pressures that could slow recovery, and researching appropriate active restoration techniques.
While not involved in the offer for the seabed lease, MCS said such a license would be required for any active restoration of natural capital projects to proceed.
The councils’ plan to lease the seabed comes after more than 100 scientists, experts and public figures signed a letter earlier this week to the Queen, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge urging them to resuscitate their lands.