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HomeNewsBrighton & HoveSussex Bay - saving our coastline one beach at a time!

Sussex Bay – saving our coastline one beach at a time!

The awful impact of sewage and pollution on our seas and rivers across Sussex has been widely reported in the media for years, with little progress made to rebalance the worsening situation. That could soon change, however, with the launch of the Sussex Bay project, a radical and dynamic movement that aims to raise £50m to safeguard the seascape for the future of Sussex.

Ahead of its official launch on 13 June 2024 at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, Dean Spears, Head of Blue Natural Capital for Sussex Bay, tells Sussex Buzz the value of this incredible project and the impact it could have on the region as a whole.

What is Sussex Bay?

Sussex Bay is visionary, formed by radical collaboration and a movement initiated by Adur & Worthing Councils, powered by civic organisations, local business, communities and people: 100 miles of coastline where our seascape and rivers flourish. A healthy blue ecosystem in which nature, people and local economy can thrive. Currently, there is no national sustained funding pot for the ocean so the project is on a mission to generate a £50m high-integrity fund for nature by 2050, formed from public and private sourced funding to accelerate local seascape recovery along 100 miles of Sussex coastline, an area from Selsey Bill to Camber Sands, including over 1 million residents and 11 Council areas.

What specific environmental challenges is Sussex Bay being set up to address?

There is a hidden ecological crisis underwater. We want to enable nature to take the recovery lead, with high-integrity funding directed to co-produced research areas. Over the past 30 years, we have seen huge kelp habitat loss. We are seeing warmer water temperatures, small boat local fishing in decline, polluted rivers with sediment from heavily channelised rivers upstream impacting in the intertidal areas downstream, coastal erosion and flood risk, and the need for a coordinated approach to maximise the impact of our efforts.

How does Sussex Bay collaborate with local communities and stakeholders to achieve its goals?

Adur & Worthing Council’s commitment to carbon reduction (it declared a climate emergency in 2019) and subsequent net-zero strategies acted as a spur to consider the role of local nature recovery projects in their overall climate response.

The Councils were inspired by the over 200 groups and organisations working along the coast and inter-tidal areas, including the Weald to Waves project and the work of the Sussex Inshore Fisheries Association regarding the introduction of a 300 km2 trawler exclusion zone off West Sussex.

Workshops with key stakeholders were undertaken during 2021, culminating in a webinar attended by over 100 people from along the Sussex coast and the conversation has continued since. Groups asked for radical collaboration. The vision for Sussex Bay is widely understood and supported, and work continues at pace.

Over the past six months, some examples of engagement include: we have presented to communities and hundreds of residents across the UN Ocean Symposium and Marine Exhibition in Bexhill-on-Sea, delivered a Tedx Talk in Brighton for later global publication, and engaged with hundreds of groups who are working hard day-in-day out on ocean work.

 

Dean Spears, Head of Blue Natural Capital speaking at TedX
Dean Spears, Head of Blue Natural Capital, speaking at TEDx ©TEDx Brighton in April.

Can you explain some of the key projects Sussex Bay is currently working on and their expected impact?

Sussex Bay will develop the UK’s first Blue Natural Capital Lab to explore research, regulation and nature capital funding, working in partnership with other areas in the UK regionally, as well as with national regulators and policy-makers, including The Crown Estate to bring together policy and delivery across the UK.

Co-produce with communities and scientists a seascape recovery plan, which will bring together all of the good work underway and undertaken and produce a framework for future research and projects over the years ahead.

We will also engage with communities, businesses and everyone who has an interest in our work, privileging marginalised communities and ensuring no one is left behind.

We have been testing the water in a few areas with a view to evaluating and then scaling out in the future. For example, we are working with partners to support the recycling and re-use of fishing net gear that would otherwise be sent to landfills or incinerated, thereby removing ‘ghost’ items from the ocean bed, which can damage wildlife there. We are also developing practical exercises with partners via a new blue natural curriculum linked to the GCSE Natural History module locally, a tool-kit to people wishing to gain experience in the sector, and are collaborating with the Sussex Dolphin Project to enable early stage researchers who would otherwise not be able to afford to do their marine work overseas, to do their research in Sussex Bay instead.

How does the restoration and protection of marine and coastal environments benefit the local economy and tourism?

Whilst our priority is primarily enabling nature to take the recovery lead with associated funding and science-led research, we know that from our website, www.sussexbay.org.uk, over 500 people visit each weekday, with several hundred more at the weekend, searching for Sussex Bay as a place or destination. Ahead of our launch, it’s early days. Colleagues from the Experience West Sussex Partnership are collaborating with us, as we think together about sustainable tourism development in the region. We are also working with local fishers communities, and engaging with businesses and thinking through the positive impact on the local economy of our work by collaborating with the Chamber of Commerce. The team will be speaking at the Chamber of Commerce for Brighton and Worthing and Adur on different dates in July for example.

What role does scientific research play in the initiatives of Sussex Bay, and how do you integrate this research into your projects?

Scientific research is incredibly important and guides our work. Following a competitive recruitment process, a new marine scientist will join the team in July and co-produce with communities and others a Sussex Bay seascape recovery plan, taking a broad overview to produce a framework for future research and activity. We want to make sure that the high integrity funding we generate is invested in-science led areas, that are related, owned and wanted by our communities.

After launching, what will be those significant milestones or signs that the Sussex Bay project is making an impact?

After launching, we will continue to collaborate radically and positively. We will be developing the Sussex Bay seascape recovery plan, working with communities around the plan and raising a high-integrity fund to plug the funding gap. During our launch, we will, amongst other initiatives, announce a Crowdfunder, encouraging both funds and groups to apply for funding in research areas. We will also be hosting and participating in events over the year ahead, including being part of Shoreham Port Sustainability Week.

How can individuals and businesses get involved or support the work being done by Sussex Bay?

Contact us with your ideas about how you would like to participate and get involved via www.sussexbay.org.uk Many individuals have offered their time, expertise and where they can, are pledgeing to donate to the Crowdfunder which will open at our launch. We will announce more details about how to get involved in our Sussex Bay Seascape Recovery Plan later in the year.

“There are so many ways to get involved. Lots of brilliant organisations have opportunities to volunteer or take part in citizen science, whereby people can contribute towards research by reporting observations locally.

What are some of the biggest challenges Sussex Bay faces in its efforts to protect and restore the coastal environment?

We are facing a hidden ecological crisis underwater, with many of the issues out of sight or out of mind. There is no national and sustainable funding pot, nor policy for the ocean nor complete data set. We need high-integrity funding and groups to come together across many sectors to help.

Looking ahead, what are Sussex Bay’s long-term goals and vision for the future?

We are embarking on a hopeful journey together. We want to see a future of an abundant and reliant seascape, that supports our lives and our learning and a seascape that we love being in and around and a place, a Sussex Bay, that we enjoy and are proud to call our home.

“What can nature do?”

On 5 April, Dean gave talk at TEDx Brighton, which is due for general release later this summer. In answering one specific question: ‘What would nature do?’ reflecting back on our connection to nature and one ocean. Dean said: “Sussex Bay is a project of hope based upon several years of preceding radical and positive collaboration between hundreds of groups, individuals, businesses and communities working on nature-led recovery projects in the ocean and rivers and access to them. We want to continue with this radical collaboration ensuring that no one is left behind. All welcome. For example, Sussex Underwater, a collection of local divers report sightings on social media. There is the Sussex Kelp App and the Sussex Dolphin Project amongst many others.

“When you are walking along the beach and sea a flock of Dunlin (birds) or whatever it is that captures your imagination, if you want to take a photo and upload it to the relevant organisation, it’s really appreciated. If you’re unsure about where to start, visit the Sussex Bay website and contact us and we’ll help.”

For more details about Sussex Bay visit www.sussexbay.org.uk or hello@sussexbay.org.uk

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