Wild Coast Sussex is a new and exciting project led by Sussex Wildlife Trust. To celebrate this project we decided to host a Q & A with Beth Chaplin, Wild Coast Sussex Administration and Communications Officer; and Ella Garrud, Wild Coast Sussex Communities & Wildlife Project Officer.
What is the Wild Coast Sussex project?
Wild Coast Sussex is a rare and exciting opportunity to work alongside partners with the shared aim to champion the rare and precious marine wildlife found locally, highlighting the extraordinary kelp forests, seahorses and rays once abundant in Sussex which could recover and thrive if given a second chance. Funded by a grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Sussex Wildlife Trust leads the 3- year partnership with Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) and Brighton SEA LIFE.
What do you hope to achieve?
Wild Coast Sussex will inspire and connect people to the Sussex coast and sea and build a healthier and sustainable future. We want to ensure that the beauty and importance of the coastal ecosystem is recognised and most importantly build connections with nature. Targeting communities all along the Sussex coast, we will work with primary schools, young people (aged 12-25) and commercial fishermen, as well as the wider community and general public and take them on a journey to make a positive difference to the crisis in the health of the sea. The activities will include a Wild Beach education programme for children, onsite and digital interpretation, a programme of citizen science surveys, fun new coastal activities and social events including beach cleans, a volunteer training programme, projects with young adults (aged 16-25) to develop local debate, action and opportunities for local marine conservation, and recycling of marine litter, including end of life fishing gear and ghost gear removed from the sea.
What marine life is rare and special in Sussex Seas?
There are a number of rare species and habitats in Sussex seas. These include the short snouted and long snouted seahorses which are nationally rare. They are protected by some of the Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in Sussex. It’s also illegal to kill, take or handle these animals, or to take flash photography of them as they are easily disturbed. So, if you are ever lucky enough to find a seahorse, leave it where it is. West Sussex used to have extensive kelp forests which have declined by over 96% since 1987. The remaining small amount of kelp that is left needs time and space to regenerate naturally. A new byelaw is has been passed by Parliament which excludes trawling from a large area of the Sussex coast year-round. It is thought that this damaging fishing method may be one reason why the kelp forests have struggled to grow back. With trawling banned from this area we hope to see the kelp start to recover. Read more about Help Our Kelp here.
All species and habitats in Sussex seas have intrinsic value and should be protected!
What is the strangest species that lives in Sussex seas?
Cuttlefish are a particularly weird creature we find off our coast. They are cephalopods, closely related to octopus and squid. They look very alien-like with a ‘w’ shaped pupil and arms and tentacles at the front of their faces. People are also often surprised to find that we have sharks living
in our seas!
What is the most interesting thing about cuttlefish?
Cuttlefish have absolutely fascinating behaviour. They can change the colour and texture of their skin in a split second to perfectly match their surrounding habitat, using special cells called chromatophores. This provides incredible camouflage. They also communicate with other cuttlefish by flashing different colours and patterns on their skin. They can also release ink from an ink sac, essentially creating a smoke screen to confuse predators, enabling them to make an escape.
It’s great that Wild Coast Sussex will help to protect wonderful wildlife like the cuttlefish, but what will Wild Coast Sussex do for local people?
Wild Coast Sussex’s learning and activities will encourage people to make positive lifestyle choices and change their behaviours to reduce negative impacts on the Sussex Coast and sea. We hope to empower people to share their experiences and influence others to protect our coast. Most importantly we’ll give people the opportunity to have fun and celebrate the wonderful human and natural heritage of Sussex and its coast and look to the future with hope and optimism.
How can they get involved?
Visit our website page for up to date information on Wild Coast Sussex and how to get in touch: