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CHASM: Crustaceans, Habitat And Sediment Movement.

The fishing grounds near Selsey Bill have traditionally been well managed and productive. Fishing in Selsey 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 ground have been seen in recent years. Selsey 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.

The Selsey 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 was first recorded by Bede in 730AD and is of huge cultural significance locally.

Key observations by the fishery show that crab and lobster catches in the Selsey area have been greatly reduced recently, particularly lobster, while the amount of sediment on the seabed and rocks locally has increased. This means that compared with 30 years ago, the mooring ground for the Selsey fleet is now far shallower than it used to be, and as a consequence is moving alongshore.

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.

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.

If the fishing ground has changed there is a need to gain a good understanding of the nearshore area, and to understand the significance of the changes to the fishing industry from environmental, economic and community perspectives.

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 held in January 2020 to discuss what a project investigating the issues raised by Selsey fishermen could look like. Participants were asked to consider how to shed light on the sedimentation and fishery problems and to recommend next steps.

Neighbouring and overlapping project areas with shared interests include Help Our Kelp; Medmerry Managed Realignment; Selsey Bill & The Hounds Marine Conservation Zone; Sussex Bay and Chichester Harbour CHaPRoN.

Follow this link to read the most recent CHASM Project Summary

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 Project Area

CHASM Project Area

The CHASM Project Area covers the inshore fishing ground of the Manhood Peninsula. This is where reductions in crab and lobster catch, and other environmental changes in the marine environment  have been noted. Changes have also been noted elsewhere along the south east coast, and may reflect a wider issue though it is not clear at this stage... Continue Reading »