As a major stockist of UK fish, M&S is actively involved in contributing to the sustainability of fisheries. One such contribution comes through the Lyme Bay project. Lyme Bay in Dorset has a globally significant ‘coral garden’ reef habitat. Despite the area being designated as a Marine Protected Area, increased pot and net fishing has reached unsustainable levels and caused damage to the reef, which is a threat not only to the habitat but to the local fishing economy and community.
To tackle this, in 2012 the Blue Marine Foundation brought together a ground-breaking alliance of conservationists, scientists, fishermen and marine authorities to form a working group and create a management plan. Their initiatives include the establishment of a voluntary code of conduct limiting fishing activities and an agreement by the fishermen to take part in scientific data collection to inform the management of their fisheries.
The project provides fishermen with training and rewards them both for low-impact fishing and high quality fish. It puts them at the heart of decision-making from the beginning. As a result, they are more open about their own practices and what needs to change to ensure they are fishing responsibly.
Today, 45 vessels and 59 fishermen are involved in the project and the unique reef features of Lyme Bay, its fish populations and the future of the small fishing fleet are all much more secure. Local small boat and shore fishermen have reported that fishing has improved in the last 5 years and a number of species have returned to the area since the project has been in operation, including Reserve Cod and undulate rays. A study by the Plymouth University Marine Institute has found a remarkable improvement of the seabed flora and fauna.
The whelk fishermen who fish within the reserve now see the value of the Voluntary Code of Conduct and have started to participate with the Lyme Bay Committee to discuss ways of conserving and sustaining whelk stocks.
And it’s not just the fishermen who have increased awareness of the principles of sustainability and responsible conservation – the message has spread to the community and young people, with over 250 children engaged in the schools education programme so far.
Partners in this programme are:
-Blue Marine Foundation
-Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve