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:

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!

No. 6 Turnstone

Turnstone, photo by Ben Andrew. Courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

Close to Brighton Marina or in Shoreham you may see the little aptly named Turnstone, running along the water’s edge and turning over pebbles, seaweed and shells, looking for small insects, snails and worms. They look a rather like pebbles themselves so look carefully!

No. 5 Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher, photo by Brian Ludwig, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

Another colourful bird with a bright red beak and red legs is the Oystercatcher. You may see little groups of them. Look for them near Brighton Marina, along the Undercliff walk, and at Shoreham. You may hear them before you see them. They make a “p-teep p-teep” sound as they fly away. Oystercatchers do not catch oysters! A better name for the Oystercatcher would be “Mussel cracker” as they eat mussels, shellfish and lugworms.

No. 4 Black Headed Gull

Black headed gull by Andy Hay, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District local group

Black headed gulls are handsome birds with – not black heads in fact but a dark brown hood. Take a careful look next time you see one. They have lovely red beaks and dark red legs. Their cheerful call is “kreear”. You can see them near the beach but also inland looking for worms and insects in some ploughed fields.

A century of change

Marine and coastal life has changed dramatically over the past century. But how do we know this? And why is this useful to us now? Pieces of this puzzle can be put together through delving into our natural history collections from the past 100 years.

Mr. Booth’s (Sea)birds

Mr. Booth's (Sea)birds
The Accidental Ecologist Edward Thomas Booth was a wealthy Victorian man who was fascinated with British birds. He travelled across ...
Read More

Why keep 100 year old seaweed? 

Why keep 100 year old seaweed? 
Plants form part of the immense natural history collections at the Booth Museum of Natural History, included in these are ...
Read More

No. 3 Cormorant

Photo of Cormorant, copyright Andy Hay. Courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group.

Want to see a prehistoric looking bird? I think you should look no further than the cormorant! Cormorants have an ancient dinosaur like look about them, as they sit on boats or rocky cliffs and stretch their wings. Look out for the young birds which have a cream coloured chest.

No. 1 Herring Gull

Herring Gull, photo by Lee Ismail

In the Number One spot it has to be – the Herring Gull! I always think they have a mean glint in their eye! But that is just my fancy.  Love them or loathe them they are a familiar sight around Brighton and Hove as they eye up the sandwiches you take to the beach. Herring gulls are the coastal birds most likely to come into conflict with humans. So let’s take a look at why that is the case and what it tells us about human behaviour too.

Herring gulls are big, bold and have a yellow beak with a red dot on it. The young birds are brown. They are seen all year round. The behaviour of Herring gulls has changed very radically since the 1920s. At this time the herring gulls nested on the chalk cliffs and fed out at sea or foraging on the beach. Gradually Herring Gulls learned that seaside towns like Brighton offered safe places to nest up on the rooftops and an easy source of food, as people dropped litter with some waste food and eat picnics out on the beach. The numbers of cliff nests dropped dramatically. Why bother foraging and using lots of energy flying out to fish at sea when there is a handy take away snack in a human’s hand or on a rubbish tip?

No. 2 Kittiwake

Kittiwakes at Seaford Head copyright Andy Hay, courtesy of RSPB Brighton & District Local Group

If Herring gulls have a mean glint in their eye, I think that the little kittiwake looks sweet and gentle. Why is it called a Kittiwake? That is the sound it makes. It has a black beady eye and is smaller than the herring gull. Unlike the herring gull, the kittiwake will not steal your chips or sandwiches. It catches fish out at sea for food instead. You will only see them locally between about March and August, when they nest at Seaford Head.

Grey seal

Grey seal, Illustration by A. Francis, courtesy of Brighton Dolphin Project

The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae, which are commonly referred to as “true seals” or “earless seals”. In the UK average weights are 233 kg (514 lb) for males and 154.6 kg (341 lb) for females with Bulls reaching 1.95–2.3 m (6 ft 5 in–7 ft 7 in) and cows typically 1.6–1.95 m (5 ft 3 in–6 ft 5 in) long.

Did you know?

Grey seals can stay underwater for up to 16 minutes, diving as deep as 300 meters, but usually diving to around 70 meters