CHASM: Crustaceans, Habitat And Sediment Movement.
The fishing grounds near Selsey Bill, West Sussex, have traditionally been well managed and productive. Fishing in the area has been dated back to the Bronze Age, while individual fishing families can trace their roots back to the 1750's, 1600's and for one family, over 1000 years. However huge changes in the fishing grounds have been seen in recent years. Local fishermen feel there has been more change in the last 10 years than in the previous 100 years. Something has affected the marine environment but it isn't clear what that is. However a number of factors are likely to be involved including human inputs and climate change.
Many local fishermen are traditionally potters whose main catch is comprised of crab and lobster, while other species includes fin fish, whelks and cuttlefish according to season. The Selsey fishery in particular was first recorded by Bede in 730AD and is of huge cultural significance locally.
Key observations by fishermen show that crab and lobster catches on the Manhood Peninsula coast have been greatly reduced recently, particularly lobster, while the amount of sediment on the seabed and rocks locally has increased.
Crabs and lobsters have a wide role to play economically and environmentally. They are ecosystem engineers, increasing biodiversity and plankton production in the ocean and helping to lock in atmospheric greenhouse gases and carbon.
Their role in creating a resilient local economy is twofold, on one hand crabs and lobsters are a primary harvest for the fishery and bring in large returns considering the small size of the industry. On the other they help make the fishery a unique selling point for the visitor economy throughout the peninsula.
In both respects the sea surrounding the peninsula and those who use it, such the fishery and the plants and animals that should thrive in it, feature in the blue carbon economy whose significance is increasingly being recognised.
The fishing grounds have changed. A good understanding of the nearshore area and associated water column is needed to understand what the changes are, why they happened, and whether mitigation measures are possible. Partnerships between the fishing industry, academic institutions, local authorities, government agencies, special interest groups and NGOs are essential in order to explore the issues.
Should pollutants be identified as an issue there may be implications for water quality, the visitor economy and the wider community to consider.
The first CHASM meeting was initiated in January 2020 by Chichester District Council to discuss what a project investigating the issues raised by local fishermen could look like. Participants were asked to consider how to shed light on the sedimentation and fishery problems and to recommend next steps. Key partners are Chichester District Council, University of Brighton and Channel Coast Observatory. The CHASM Project Summary looks at the questions behind the project and provides an overview of CHASM to date.
Neighbouring and overlapping project areas with shared interests include the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project; RSPB Medmerry; Selsey Bill & The Hounds Marine Conservation Zone; Sussex Bay and Chichester Harbour CHaPRoN.
The CHASM project produced a report on the first year of activities in which a review was undertaken of existing work that could be affecting crabs, lobsters and other marine species. It doesn't aim to answer all the questions, but it has helped the group see what has happened previously and shown the way forward for future research. Please see the section below to read and download the CHASM Project Report 2020-2021.
Key Project Aims:
- To understand the changes that have taken place in the Selsey crab and lobster fishing grounds, particularly within the Selsey Bill & Hounds MCZ.
- To determine whether the fishing grounds have been impacted by recent environmental inputs including sediment increase, sewage discharge and contaminants in land runoff.
- To understand whether the negative effects on the Selsey fishing industry can be mitigated to ensure the sustainability of both the industry and the nearshore marine environment.
- To gain greater support and understanding of the marine environment from local communities, visitors and authorities by improving understanding of the benefits and challenges of the open coast through partnerships and education programmes onshore and underwater.
- Develop affiliations with other local initiatives including the Sussex Kelp Restoration Project, CHaPRoN and Sussex Bay
CHASM’s first year report and project document were sent to David Attenborough, who kindly found time to reply. He extended his best wishes the CHASM project and hoped the work would enable protective measures to be based not on theory but facts.
We’ll do our very best!
The CHASM Project Area covers the inshore fishing ground of the Manhood Peninsula. The main project area is very close to shore where reductions in crab and lobster catch, and other environmental changes in the marine environment have been noted. The wider area is where sediment sampling has taken place, and where other factors affecting catch are likely... Continue Reading »
Since early 2020 the first stages of a project concentrating on lobsters and sediment has been taking place in the seas surrounding the Manhood Peninsula south of Chichester, West Sussex. This is the CHASM Project (CHASM | Manhood Peninsula Partnership). The acronym stands for Crustaceans, Habitat And Sediment Movement. The project began following Sea’s the Day (Sea’s the... Continue Reading »
The CHASM project hosted its first stakeholder network event on 14 June 2022 at Selsey Town Hall, where speakers presented the complex backdrop of change that has coincided with reductions in the coastal crustacean fisheries around Selsey Bill, West Sussex. Funded by the Faculty of Environment & Life Sciences at University of Southampton, the aim was to bring together stakeholders... Continue Reading »
Fishing has been a part of Selsey Bill, West Sussex and the surrounding areas since the Bronze Age. Local fishermen tell of huge changes to the fishing grounds in recent years, about the small numbers of lobsters being caught locally, and large influxes of sediment arriving in their fishing grounds. Needing to understand these changes led to the development of... Continue Reading »
We were so pleased to receive a letter from David Attenborough about the CHASM project. CHASM’s first year report and project document were sent to David Attenborough, who kindly found time to reply just after Easter 2022. He extended his best wishes the CHASM project and hoped the work would enable protective measures to be based not on hunches, but... Continue Reading »
CHASM is pleased to be working with the Environment Agency National Water Quality Instrumentation Service (NWQIS). The aim is to measure water quality parameters along the coast of the Manhood Peninsula, south of Chichester West Sussex, so we can look at some of the environmental factors such as turbidity and water quality that might be affecting crabs and lobsters,... Continue Reading »
Life Solved Live is a lecture series held by the University of Portsmouth presenting discoveries intended to change the way you see and understand things. The introductory lecture by Professor Alex Ford discussed the shocking truth behind our pollutants and our marine life in his talk ‘Sex changing sea life’. This was an absolute light bulb moment for the... Continue Reading »
In recent years the Selsey fishermen have found in creasing numbers of sleepy and dead crabs among edible crab (Cancer pagarus) catch in the sea off Selsey prompting Cefas to investigate. A previously unidentified paramoebiasis, Janickina feisti, was discovered in the Selsey crabs. This resulted in extensive investigations by Dr. Kelly Bateman, Crustacean Health Theme Lead, Cefas. Following is a... Continue Reading »
CHASM has partnered with BLUE Marine Foundation to deliver a workshop examining marine sediment influencing Selsey and the rest of the Sussex Coast. The workshop took place on 18 May 2023 and was funded by the Rewilding Network. The Sussex Sediment Monitoring and Adaptive Response Workshop brought together the key stakeholders involved in monitoring and regulating sediment inputs to... Continue Reading »