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Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery

By Site Admin

A new documentary film Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery by award-winning director Rupert Murray has been made available to the public after an exclusive event attended by a select audience of fishermen, members of parliament, community leaders and conservationists on Tuesday evening.

The documentary, produced by Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), showcases the miraculous recovery of marine life in the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve in Dorset, following the creation of a marine protected area that banned destructive, mobile fishing. The film also tells of the benefits to small-scale fishermen of the community-led, collaborative model of sustainable fishing that has since been developed.

Rupert Murray, award-winning director of British documentary films Unknown White Male and The End of the Line, allowed the Lyme Bay fishermen to tell their own story in his new half-hour documentary. In it, fishermen explain how they came together to solve the new challenges that arose after the marine protected area was created – and how a proliferation of static pots and nets was solved through a voluntary code.

Jim Newton, fisherman and Chairman of the East Devon Fisherman’s Association, said: “The great value to us has been in the collaboration between fishermen, BLUE, scientists and the powers-that-be, all meeting together in one room and getting to the root of the problems we’ve had.”

In addition to the benefits to the area’s local, small-scale fishermen, the film also documents the conservation “wins” that have occurred. Once trawling and dredging stopped, Lyme Bay’s fragile seabed and coral gardens were given a chance to recover. Plymouth University scientists observed a 22 per cent increase in fragile pink sea fans following the ban and a three times greater abundance of all bottom-living species in the reserve compared with outside. They also saw a nearly four-fold increase in the abundance of commercially valuable fish.

We’re thrilled to be able to share this film with the Lyme Bay fishing community and to be able to show the UK, and the rest of the world, that properly managed marine protected areas can provide tangible benefits to fishermen as well as to the marine environment. We hope this ‘win-win’ model of sustainable fishing will be adopted elsewhere in the UK and abroad.
Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE

A pioneering four-year study undertaken by BLUE and Plymouth University monitored the effect of potting on Lyme’s reefs and fishermen’s catch, and showed that the number of pots used by fishermen under their voluntary code of conduct had little impact on the marine environment. However, if commercial intensity were to increase above a measurable “threshold”, the study revealed that the reef species that have started to return following the ban on trawling could be negatively affected.

Dave Sales, fisherman and Ex-Sea Fisheries Committee representative who was awarded the British Empire Medal this year for his services to fishing and conservation, said: “The great recovery that has been started in Lyme Bay is a wonderful example for the conservation of all inshore waters.”

The documentary premiere was also held to raise awareness of the challenges caused for small-scale fishermen by the Covid-19 pandemic and second UK lockdown. The screening promoted various initiatives including #Call4Fish and #LocalFishForDinner with the aim of supporting fishermen during the lockdown.

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