Wild Coast Sussex

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?

Greater pipefish copyright Paul Naylor Sussex Wildlife Trust

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?

Common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis, Marie Bournonville, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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:

Sussex Flow Initiative

Sam Buckland, Project Officer for the Sussex Flow Initiative describes how natural flood management is being used to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity decline.

Increasing water storage to reduce flooding © Sussex Flow Initiative

The Sussex Flow Initiative started in 2012 as a Natural Flood Management project supported by Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Environment Agency and Lewes District Council. The project works across the ‘catchment scale’, in other words, over the area of land where water collects and feeds into ponds, lakes and rivers. The project involves communities and landowners in the Ouse catchment, an area of 672 km2 and over 122 km of watercourses. The scheme is creating and enhancing natural features that slow and store water within the landscape, which reduces flood risk to communities downstream. The impact of the project extends far beyond the catchment boundary and flood management. A healthy landscape and river network are vital for human health and wellbeing, providing a range of benefits such as clean water and air, and increased biodiversity.

Volunteers planting trees to slow surface water © Sussex Flow Initiative
Volunteers planting trees to slow surface water © Sussex Flow Initiative

In most cases, natural flood management focuses on reversing past activities (such as drainage) and restoring the ability of the land to slow and store water. As a result, water is once again allowed to seep into soils and drain slowly into surface waters. Water also moves deeper into the soil, helping to top up the store of groundwater and resulting in a steadier supply of water. Trees can also help to control floodwater because of their importance in the water cycle. They intercept rainfall, take up water from the soil, slow down surface run-off and floodwater and help water to move deeper into the soil and groundwater. These processes hold water on land and reduce the amount and speed of water flowing into streams and rivers. Tree planting has added benefits such as providing important habitat and food for a range of birds, bats and insects, as well as storing carbon. With the help of local volunteers, our project has planted over 60,100 trees. We have established more than 9 kilometres of new hedgerow and 8.5 hectares of woodland (equivalent to the area of 10 football pitches), including over 4 hectares of floodplain woodland and 450 rare black poplars.


Within the stream and river channels, we have been restoring meanders, bankside vegetation and in-channel wood. These are all lost natural features that slow water and make for a dynamic and healthy ecosystem. Our project has created nearly 5 million litres of new, seasonal water storage, including flood storage ponds, wader scrapes and meadow washlands. An incredibly important part of the project is to increase the skills, knowledge and understanding of natural flood management and empower people to take positive action.

One such way is through using large woody debris, creating ‘leaky’ wood dams that imitate those that built by an important animal that has been missing from our waterways for 400 years; the beaver. Leaky dams are a natural component of streams, forming clusters of dams, slowing the water’s speed, trapping sediment and pollutants, and creating a range of different stream habitats that are important for fish and invertebrates. The presence of woody debris can also help to make the landscape more resilient to drought by encouraging the formation of small pools and helping to restore the natural movement of water. Through contractor training days and volunteer tasks, our project has installed over 270 leaky dams across the Ouse catchment. Hopefully we will see the return of beavers to Sussex catchments in the future, and with it the biodiversity and the flood management that they deliver through coppicing and dam creation.

Our project is using natural features to slow and store water in the landscape. These measures are cheap, collaborative and easy to implement, as well as delivering many other multiple benefits to society. We know that multiple actions taken now can provide positive natural flood management and natural capital benefits long into the future.

Brighton Dolphin Project Drawing Competition Winners

Brighton Dolphin Project & Royal Pavilion & Museums launched a drawing competition to celebrate the launch of the OceanBlues website and National Marine Week.  

The competition was to draw any of our six Sussex marine mammals. We had lots of fantastic entries but our two winners were:

Up to 6 years: Austin Kempton aged 6, from Hove 
Seal on a rock above the sea by Austin Kempton aged 6
7-12 years: Arlo Kempton from Hove 
Seal on a sandy beach by the salty sea, by Arlo Kempton aged 9
Well done guys!

5 top tips to help save our oceans

1. Knowledge is power

Searching along the rock pools

Learn and share as much as you can about local marine life. The more you and others know, the more you can fight to protect Our Living Coast, Sussex seas and the ocean.

Explore your local habitats as much as you can. Check out our guide to rock pooling

Read excellent user-friendly guides like The Diver’s Guide to Marine Life of Britain & Ireland. There are also more specific guides including guides to sponges and anemones here.

2. Support a marine life charity

short-snouted seahorse©Paul NaylorSussex Wildlife Trust.jpg

Marine charities do an incredible amount of work in trying to help save our seas. They need your help you can help in so many different ways, by collecting data, volunteering your time or by becoming a member.

Sussex Wildlife Trust

Marine Conservation Society

Brighton Dolphin Project

3. Collect data

Turning over stones, Chitons hidden underneath

The collective effort of volunteers gathering data led to the establishment of Marine Conservation Zones which have been set up to protect our most vulnerable marine life.

You don’t have to be an expert!

IRecord is a great app to help you ID and record your finds

Send your data to Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

Join a marine life monitoring programme like Sussex Shoresearch or if you’re a diver Seasearch – anyone can join in!

4. Combating the climate crisis 


As the seas and the atmosphere warm up, there are big risks to the oceans including melting of polar ice sheets, ocean acidification, loss of habitats including coral reefs and mangroves and rises in sea levels.

Not all is lost…

Find out as much as you can about the climate crisis and what Brighton & Hove city council are doing in response to it

Projects like Help our Kelp  are being set up to  combat the climate crisis.  Writing to your local MP to help this project one of the most effective actions you can take.

 Climate Conversations is a Royal Pavilion & Museums blog series on Climate Change and what we can do about it.

5. Clean up our beaches

Some Final Brighton Clichés – Litter by Barney Livingston.

Globally, over 80% of the yearly input comes from land-based sources, such as plastic packaging and bottles. Learn how to reduce waste as much you can and help to clean up Brighton & Hove by following the links below.

#StreetsAhead – find out more about the campaign to clean up Brighton & Hove’s neighbourhoods, streets and beaches

Read Brighton & Hove food partnerships top tips for reducing plastic waste

Volunteer with the Tidy Up Scheme – tackle litter and graffiti with council support

Reduce, reuse & recycle plastics – advice from Brighton & Hove City Council on how to minimise your plastic use and dispose of plastics safely

Brighton & Hove Beach clean – join or organise a beach clean

Brighton Dolphin Project

Many of us walk along Brighton seafront gazing out at the beautiful ocean, but what actually lives beneath the waves? 

From the surface, the answer may appear to be ‘not much’ but as this video shows, looks can be deceiving…

This  pod of bottlenose dolphins was seen just a mile off Shoreham Port by Brighton Fish Sales on 26/05/2020 (courtesy of Brighton Dolphin Project), and it’s not only bottlenose dolphins that visit Sussex seas…

We are lucky enough to have six species of marine mammal living in Sussex!  They include: bottlenose, white-beaked and common dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey seals and harbour seals.

That’s where Brighton Dolphin Project come in.  The Sussex coastline is the most poorly researched area for marine mammals. Their mission is to tell the world about the dolphins of Sussex, research these wonderful cetaceans and find out just how many are Brighton residents.

White-Beaked dolphin illustration, copyright Brighton Dolphin Project

To find out where the dolphins are, and how they are behaving, Brighton Dolphin Project needs people to get involved and send in their sightings as part of a huge citizen science project.

“we ask people to report any sightings and tell us about their experience. To date we have over 200 sightings of marine mammals recorded and these are only the sightings that have been sent into us!”

The future for Brighton Dolphin Project

The future is looking bright for Brighton Dolphin Project. The project is growing larger and they are in the process of moving into exciting new premises at Shoreham Port. They are hoping to gather more data too – the more data they have, the more likely they are to be able to protect dolphins in Sussex.

Take action!

You can help Brighton Dolphin Project by…

  • Keeping your eyes peeled for any marine mammals in Sussex. Use their Research Leaflet  to help you collect data and aid your spotting
  • Following them on Instagram @brightondolphinproject
  • Making sure you take your litter with you when you visit beaches so our marine life doesn’t get tangled up
  • Entering their drawing competition (closing 28/08/2020)

Tackling Plastic

Some Final Brighton Clichés – Litter by Barney Livingston.

Taking action on plastic

The plastic problem seems like a huge challenge to overcome, and it is, but you can try and do your bit by finding out how to reduce, reuse & recycle plastic locally.

Taking part in a litter pick or beach clean can also help because litter is one of the main sources of plastic in our seas.

Clean up Brighton & Hove 

Locally, there are several organisations and initiatives you can get involved with to help clean up and reduce your plastic waste in Brighton & Hove. Here are just some of them listed below.

#StreetsAhead – find out more about the campaign to clean up Brighton & Hove’s neighbourhoods, streets and beaches

Read Brighton & Hove food partnerships top tips for reducing plastic waste

Volunteer with the Tidy Up Scheme – tackle litter and graffiti with council support

Support Surfers Against Sewage – SAS organise beach cleans and fund raisers to help fight plastic pollution

Support Marine Conservation Society – the MSC organise initiatives like the  Great British Beach Clean which runs annually in September and the Plastic Free July challenge

Reduce, reuse & recycle plastics – advice from Brighton & Hove City Council on how to minimise your plastic use and dispose of plastics safely

Brighton & Hove Beach clean – join or organise a beach clean

Pier2Pier Disco Beach clean – silent disco beach clean (suspended during COVID)

Sussex Beach cleans – with Sussex Wildlife Trust

This list will be updated and added to over the coming months, if you have an initiative you would like to flag or recommend please add your comments below.

Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant, Booth Museum of Natural History 

Marine Conservation Zones

What are Marine Conservation Zones?

Marine Conservation Zones are a type of Marine Protected Area of the British coasts. As part of a ‘blue belt‘, there aim is to protect our most vulnerable marine life and habitats from destructive human activity including trawling, pollution and leisure boating.

The zones act as nurseries for immature fish and other sea life. These rich areas of protected sea life should seed the surrounding areas with new stock increasing the fishing yield for fishermen in the open sea.

What a Marine Conservation Zone should look like from Sussex Wildlife Trust on Vimeo.

Find out more at http://www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/livingseas
Film produced by The Wildlife Trusts

What progress has been made?

We now have 91 marine conservation zones in and around 250 marine protected areas in the UK. The conservation zones aim to protect important marine environments from destructive human activity including trawling, pollution and leisure boating.

Over 24% of UK waters (12 nautical miles from the coast) were in protected areas in 2018.  Globally, international bodies have called for 30% of all seas and oceans to be protected.

You can view the MCZs using the JNCC universal mapper

Sussex Marine Conservation Zones 

In Sussex, we have 9 Marine Conservation Zones  which cover around 22% of our local seas. Among these is Beachy Head West which was one of the first areas to be designated in the UK. It runs from Brighton Marina to Eastbourne and is a wonderful spot for Rockpooling (see our Rockpooling guide).

The chalky seabed is an important environment for a number of species, including, Native oysters (Ostrea edulis), Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) and  Blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) beds.

What needs to be done?

The increase in MCZs being designated is a huge step towards protecting these marine habitats, however, there needs to be investment in the proper management of these sites. According to the Blue Foundation only 5% of MPA are protected from destructive activities like trawling they say:

At the moment trawls and dredges are banned in only 5% of the area of UK marine protected areas. Incredibly, there is more trawling inside protected areas than outside and fewer fish, according to a recent study. Most of what we have today are therefore paper parks.

If we dramatically increase levels of protection for these places, we would have a world class network that would deliver the clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas the government aspires to. The science also says, that fisheries are better off if fishing is kept outside protected areas, because protected stocks replenish them.

Take Action!


Collect Data!

Marine Conservation Zones were established through a huge army of volunteers collecting data from our shores and in the seas.

If you can’t commit much time, anyone can gather data; a trip to the beach, snorkel, dive. Just note what you find, where, when and submit the data to the Sussex Biodiversity Centre or iRecord

Join a wildlife charity! 

Wildlife charities like Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society do a tremendous amount of work to help protect our seas but they need your help to keep running.

Written by Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant, Booth Museum of Natural History


Help our Kelp!

Sussex Wildlife Trust talk to us about the latest updates of their HelpOurKelp campaign, why kelp is important and  what you can do to get involved.

Kelp is the name given to a group of brown seaweeds, usually large in size, that are capable of forming dense aggregations known as ‘kelp forests’.

Historically, kelp was abundant along the West Sussex coastline. But this important habitat has diminished over time, leaving just a few small patches and individual plants, mostly in shallow water and along the shoreline. Through the Help Our Kelp partnership, we want to bring it back!

Why we should Help Our Kelp!

How far have we come?

The first step towards restoration is to put fisheries management in place. Whilst there are a number of factors that may be affecting the kelp, one manageable factor is fishing effort.

The Sussex IFCA, who manage fishing within six nautical miles from the Sussex shore, agreed a new byelaw on 23 January 2020 which will see trawling excluded from a vast 304 km2 of Sussex coastline year-round. The decision was made following an extensive consultation period, which saw overwhelming support demonstrated by almost 2,500 people in response to the Help Our Kelp campaign.

The implementation of this byelaw will alleviate the pressure from this type of fishing on the habitat used by the kelp, giving it some breathing space to regenerate.

Sussex Wildlife Trust is delighted to be working alongside Big Wave Productions, BLUE Marine Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and University of Portsmouth as the Help Our Kelp Partnership. Together we have contacted Secretary of State George Eustice directly, urging him to sign the byelaw swiftly, and encouraged all Sussex MPs to do the same. We have done this understanding the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis and the important roles that DEFRA and our local MPs are playing.

As lockdown restrictions start to ease, we wish to put this critical byelaw back on the political agenda. We see it as a win-win scenario for Sussex, both for its people and its wildlife. Getting the byelaw signed is a positive and unprecedented action for a more sustainable Sussex.

Click hereto learn more and to watch the stunning campaign film created by Big Wave Productions, narrated by David Attenborough himself.

Take Action!

Click here to help Sussex kelp forests.  Writing to your local MP is one of the most effective actions you can take.

Written by Nikki Hills and Ella Garrud, Sussex Wildlife Trust

Sussex wildlife trust logo, courtesy of Sussex Wildlife Trust.jpg