Conservation and Research

Work conducted by the Conservation and Research Team provides essential evidence to inform and monitor Sussex IFCA’s management decisions, and further our understanding of the coastal marine environment and fisheries. The Sussex IFCA takes an ecosystem-based approach with our research. We work in partnership with a wide range of organisations. Below are highlights from some key projects we have been working on over the past few years. See our Four Year Conservation and Research Plan and our Annual Conservation and Research Report for more information. Please get in contact if you would like to discuss any research ideas or to discuss access to data.

Small Fish Surveys

We work with partner organisations to conduct surveys of small and juvenile fish in estuarine and inshore areas in our District. These areas are important as nursery grounds for many fish species, in particular those which are of commercial importance. Fish are also an important part of marine food webs and as indicators of ecosystem health.

Best Practice Guidance ID Guide ID Guide Field Copy SFS 2022 Summary

Sussex IFCA Kelp Research

The Sussex IFCA has undertaken several kelp-based research projects over the past few years. These projects aim to assess the impact of the Nearshore Trawling Byelaw on ecosystems, fisheries, and local communities.

Help Our Kelp SKIT Factsheet ZSL Video Survey Report 2019-2020 Value of Ecosystem Services of Kelp Sussex Kelp Research


In 2018, we worked with fishermen in Hastings and the University of Brighton to find out more about the sustainability of the cuttlefish fishery. Cuttlefish come into Sussex coastal waters in the spring to breed. After they lay their eggs, they die. Some cuttlefish are caught in pots or traps and whilst this is generally a sustainable fishery, we want to decrease the number of eggs which are laid on the pots and subsequently lost. We also looked at the fishing pressures on the whole stock in the English Channel.

We received funding from the Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) to conduct a project called Supporting Sustainable Sepia Stocks.

Biology & Ecology English Channel Fishery Egg Receptor Project Egg Survival Study Good Practice Leaflet


There is a small-scale but locally important fishery for native oysters in Chichester Harbour. Fishing by dredging used to take place for a couple of weeks each November but unfortunately stock levels have been too low in recent years to allow any fishing activity. We conduct an annual stock assessment to inform flexible management measures. 

We also collect catch per unit effort data and length-frequency data by working alongside environmental health officers from local councils. The Sussex IFCA has been responsible for introducing the Oyster Permit Byelaw which places restrictions on the size of dredges the amount of time vessels spend fishing, and harvest control thresholds. The aim of this byelaw is to promote the recovery of native oyster populations. The Sussex IFCA is currently working alongside the Native Oyster Network and the Solent Oyster Restoration Project to explore options for oyster restoration.

Management Measures Native Oyster Network Solent Oyster Restoration Project

Fishing Vessel Effort

Since 2001, Sussex IFCA has collected data on observed fishing activity whilst on sea patrols. This data can be used to create maps which demonstrate where there is varying levels of effort for different fishing methods, which is useful for fisheries management.

Fishing Effort 2019-2023

Kingmere MCZ

Sussex IFCA has undertaken a range of research projects within Kingmere MCZ. Data from these projects can be used to implement appropriate management measures. Some of these projects include the tagging of black seabream and the use of acoustic and video arrays to map the site for habitat data and fish nesting sites.

Kingmere MCZ

FishIntel project

Sussex IFCA is one of the partner organizations collaborating in the FishIntel project. The project uses tags and acoustic arrays to track the fine scale movement of European bass and black seabream to better understand the unique spatial ecology of the species. The Sussex IFCA will focus specifically on the Selsey and Kingmere MCZ part of the district for this project.

The Selsey region of the district was known for its extensive historical kelp habitat. We hope the results from this study indicate whether this area acts as a key habitat for species such as black seabream.

FishIntel Project

Habitat Mapping

The Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) were commissioned to interpret bathymetry, backscatter and ground truthing data, with funding from the Environment Agency and the South Downs National Park Authority, for the seabed mapping part of the Sussex Coastal Habitats Inshore Pilot (SCHIP1) project. A series of detailed maps were produced, including surficial substrate, marine habitats, and anthropogenic features, to inform conservation, planning policy and management objectives.

In 2019, the CCO were commissioned to extend the detailed habitat map out to 4km between Shoreham and Selsey, including Selsey Bill and the Hounds Marine Conservatin Zone.

For SCHIP2, the University of Brighton were commissioned to create a habitat map of the whole District. As acoustic data was not available at a suitable resolution for the entire area, the ground truth data points were used to create Voronoi polygons where the boundaries were drawn equidistant between data points.

We are working with the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre to produce an online interactive map.

Interactive Map Interactive Map Overview Channel Coast Observatory Report Channel Coastal Observatory SCHIP1 Report SCHIP2 Report South Downs National Park Authority Environment Agency Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

Elasmobranch Evidence

We are conducting research to find out more about the species in Sussex coastal waters and how we can manage them sustainably.

CEFAS have been tagging starry smooth-hounds. Please let them know if you catch a tagged smooth-hound. Details in the poster below.

An Interreg project that Kent and Essex IFCA have been involved in called SUMARiS which aims to put together the necessary knowledge and evidence in order to implement a species specific cross-border management strategy for the rays and skates fishery.

CEFAS Smooth-hound Poster Sharks Trust

Shellfish Monitoring

Fishers who hold a Shellfish Permit are required to send us data on their catch every month. Sussex IFCA collate this information every year to produce a Shellfish Catch Return Report, which details trends on the key shellfish species within the district.

Sussex IFCA officers also take measurements of lobster and brown crab caught by fishermen, which enables us to support our Shellfish Permit Byelaw. We can see how many lobsters and brown crab are caught per number of pots hauled and look at what section of the population is being caught by looking at lengths of individuals. This data allows us to investigate the reported declines in lobster and brown crab catches across the district.

Shellfish catch return report

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Sussex IFCA
12A Riverside Business Centre
Brighton Rd
West Sussex
BN43 6RE

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