The Sussex inshore marine environment has a wide diversity of habitats and species. This supports an exceptionally wide range of marine species and results in rich inshore fishing grounds. Key fin fisheries species include sole, plaice and bass which are caught in fixed nets, drift nets and trawls. There are over 300 fishing boats landing into Sussex port. Whelk, lobster, crab and cuttlefish are all extremely important commercial fishing species in Sussex inshore waters, with over 3,700t landed in 2015, providing income for many Sussex inshore fishermen.
Another example of the rich Sussex fisheries is Chichester Harbour’s native oyster fishery. Native oysters have been declining for many years and are uncommon now around the UK, but people have come together to protect the fishery and the beautiful environment of the harbour. Signs are encouraging with 25 tons fished over the short autumn oyster dredging season in 2015, and good indications of a healthy population for future years.
Fishers and fisheries managers work together to protect these valuable natural assets and to help create sustainable fisheries.
Most commercial fishing boats that operate off the Sussex Coast are under 10m in length and operate inshore, usually within six nautical miles (nm) of the coast. These boats land their catch daily. Most of the fleet is multi-purpose, operating throughout the year in pursuit of whichever stock (and or quota) is available during the relevant season. For example, sole are fished in the spring and autumn, bass are targeted in the summer and cod in the winter.
These smaller inshore vessels use a variety of static and mobile gears. Gill, trammel and entangling net fishing takes place widely in the region. Other methods include trawling, beam trawling, pair trawling, drift netting, and scallop and oyster dredging. There is also an important fishery potting for whelk, lobster and brown crab and a cuttlefish trap fishery.
Onshore recreational angling occurs all along the Sussex coastline; piers, marinas and harbour walls are particularly important for anglers throughout the year. The open beaches and the many closed bays and estuaries are also significant areas for recreational sea anglers.
The diversity of the near shore habitats produces a diverse range of fish species. Offshore the Sussex District contains ‘marks’ that are nationally recognised as offering a unique angling experience. These include, but are not limited to, an area known as ‘Utopia’; famed for tope fishing; ‘The Overfalls’ (just outside the 6 miles limit) popular for bass angling (both of these sites are in the eastern Solent) and a bream nesting area near ‘Kingmere’ offshore from Littlehampton. The offshore angling experience is facilitated by a flotilla of small privately owned craft, numerous angling club boats and a good number of professional charter angling boats.