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Lyme Bay long-term monitoring study - ME414133

The Lyme Bay long-term monitoring study is an innovative demonstration project set up to assess how and over what timescale reef communities recovered following the closure of the site to bottom towed fishing. Lyme Bay, on the Devon Dorset border, was protected from bottom towed fishing gear in 2008 (under a Statutory Instrument (SI). Since then the site has been made a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and IFCA bylaws have added to the initial designation to protect the wider SAC. The SI made Lyme Bay the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) to adopt The Whole Site Approach whereby bottom towed fishing was excluded from the entire site, rather than just from the designated features.

DEFRA funded the first four years of this work that allowed the first phase of recovery to be recorded. This was crucial and allowed the first fundamental observations to be made regarding recovery of reef associated species between the reefs, highlighting how functionally essential the Lyme Bay style of management is for effective MPA management. This research underpinned what is now known as the Whole Site Approach and now features as a commitment in the government’s 25 year environmental plan and the Highly Protected Marine Areas review (2020).

In 2013/2014 Lyme Bay was hit by a series of extreme storm events that devastated the MPA. The existence of the Lyme Bay project provided the UKs first opportunity to understand the impacts and recovery timescales of extreme storms relative to bottom towed fishing effects. As climate change is set to increase storm frequency and magnitude, these data will now be essential to inform how our MPA networks and buffer zones should be managed in future. The Lyme Bay data is now being used to inform policies on the UK Marine Strategy, The 25 Year Environmental Plan and the Whole Site Approach, Highly Protected Marine Areas, IFCA Byelaws and Habitats Directive condition assessments.

This year, the study will continue long-term data collection. It will be used to understand how corona virus and the associated reduction of fishing effort in Lyme Bay has affected the reefs. There is no other example in the UK of baseline benthic data that provides this opportunity. This project is a partnership between University of Plymouth (UoP) and Natural England (NE)
1. To quantify the recovery of the identified species within the Statutory Instrument closure with the removal of towed gear compared to appropriate control areas, including control areas within the candidate Special Area of Conservation using previously employed methodologies to ensure comparability and continuity (refer to methods in MB0101 report);
2. To quantify changes in reef-associated nekton (free-swimming fish and invertebrates) within the closure with the removal of towed gear compared to appropriate control areas using previously employed methodologies to ensure comparability and continuity (refer to methods in MB0101 report);
3. To assess the long-term effects of fishery area closure on long lived and sessile benthic species;
4. To provide the findings of the recovery study in a technically succinct report.
5. To provide a discrete assessment of the effects resulting from changes in the intensity of anthropogenic activities over the last few months to the substrates and benthos occurring in the areas surveyed following the restrictive COVID 19 measures, by comparing and analysing data collected in 2020 with previous data
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2020

To: 2021

Cost: £115,746
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Natural England
Natural Environment - Ecosystem services              
Fields of Study
Environmental Protection - Marine