The Sussex Bay initiative, which launched in Brighton in June, aims to deliver a healthy marine ecosystem for the Sussex coast. This blog by Head of Blue Natural Capital Dean de Aragón-Spears, outlines Sussex Bay’s vision for nature recovery and the ways in which everyone can get involved.

An ambitious new collaborative initiative working to enhance and accelerate nature’s recovery along the Sussex coastline was launched on 13 June at Brighton’s Corn Exchange. The vision for Sussex Bay is 100 miles of coastline where our seascape and rivers flourish, a healthy blue ecosystem in which nature, people and local economy can thrive. The Sussex Bay area is an extensive seascape from Selsey Bill to Camber Sands and is home to over a million residents.

Formed over the past two years from radical collaboration with over 200 groups, organisations, and partners – including local authorities, charities and diverse communities of residents and businesses – Sussex Bay aims to create and deliver a pioneering seascape-scale strategy for the entire coastline.

Restoring coastal ecosystems and their blue natural capital helps protect our coasts from storms, clean our waters, store carbon and support biodiversity. And as nature recovers, people and the coastal economy will benefit too. Sussex Bay is looking to deliver everything from sustainable fisheries to enhanced health and wellbeing, and new commercial opportunities in ecotourism and leisure.

Sussex Bay was seed funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and was the second ever recipient of Rewilding Britain’s Rewilding Challenge Fund, which awarded the project £100,000 in February. It is now on a mission to generate a £50 million fund for nature by 2050. At the launch event, a Crowdfunding campaign was announced which aims to reach the first £1 million this year. Anyone can contribute to the Crowdfunder, individual, business or grant maker at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/restoring-sussex-bay-together.

The funding from Rewilding Britain will enable Sussex Bay to accelerate its ambitions into 2025, increasing nature-led recovery of marine habitats already underway and creating opportunities for community engagement, employment, education and circular economy projects. It enables the appointment of a science lead to Sussex Bay’s Blue Natural Capital Lab project, as well as contributing to several pilot projects. The science lead will work with the 200 groups operating projects along Sussex Bay to create a cohesive seascape framework.

The funding will also help develop several community enrichment initiatives including a work experience toolkit for those interested in working in the marine, rewilding and land management sectors, and a multi-discipline marine nature recovery programme for young people developed with partners including Weald to Waves, which aims to establish a 100-mile nature corridor across Sussex, and the Sussex Dolphin Project, who are now reporting sightings of dolphins off the coast of Sussex nearly every day.

“Sussex Bay is the Blue Mirror to the South Downs. We want to accentuate the fact that Sussex is blue as well as green. We want to see dolphin superpods all the time, we want to see bluefin tuna skipping out of the water, we want Sussex Bay lobster to be being caught and sold by small boat fishing communities, and we want our wetlands and our salt marshes to become renowned ornithological hotspots. It’s going to take a while, a lot of effort and a lot of people, but this is a really hopeful start for something very different. If we listen very hard, the future generations are asking us to do this,” Paul Brewer, Director for Sustainability & Resources at Adur & Worthing Councils, told the launch event.

The launch also heard from father and daughter team Eric Smith and Catrine Priestley, divers from the Sussex Underwater organisation, who tearfully described the decline of the marine habitat since 1959, then delivered a message of hope by showing images of the sea life that is returning to Sussex Bay since the introduction of the pioneering Nearshore Trawling Byelaw in 2021 covering more than 300 square kilometres.

Dean de Aragón-Spears, Head of Blue Natural Capital for Sussex Bay, introduced the project with a talk at TEDx Brighton in April in which he highlighted the UK’s lack of national ocean policy. “I had no idea before I joined Sussex Bay nationally how fragmented everything was. There is no national funding for the oceans in the UK. There is no national policy. There is no complete dataset, although there are some fantastic people working in this space,” he said.

Speaking at the launch, he highlighted the ways that members of the public can get involved: “Do some citizen science – if you see a flock of dunlin birds, some kelp or dolphin, take a photo and report that, or join the research over the year ahead. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and sign up to the Sussex Bay newsletter to keep up to date with plans and developments, and whatever your area of interest or expertise, you can give what you can in terms of time, pro bono offerings or support to our crowdfunder. You, we, are Sussex Bay, and you are all welcome,” he said.

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