People in Sussex can all enjoy the beaches and sea around us, from divers, swimmers, anglers, commercial fishers and sailors to people walking along the beaches and cliff tops taking in the sights. How many people know about what’s under the sea, and about the fishing that it supports? The dolphins that frequent the sea around Brighton and the seals that haul out in Chichester Harbour are flagship Sussex species that indicate the incredible marine wildlife that exists more often out of sight. The Sussex inshore marine environment has a wide diversity of habitats. This supports an exceptionally wide range of marine species and results in rich inshore fishing grounds.

The UK Government’s vision is of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. Central to this vision is a well-managed ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which the UK has committed to under several international agreements. The network consists of European Marine Sites (EMS), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Ramsar sites, and Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).

Through developing a well-managed MPA network, supported by wider environmental fisheries management measures, we will promote the recovery and conservation of marine ecosystems. The health of our marine environment and the state of our fisheries are intrinsically linked. Our work on better understanding and striving to protect our marine environment off Sussex, whilst balancing the economic needs of fishers, is essential to ensure sustainable fisheries.

Marine Mammals

If you see dolphins or porpoises at sea, please send your sightings information to the Brighton Dolphin Project and the Sea Watch Foundation.

If you find a stranded dolphin, porpoise, whale or seal which is still alive contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546 or contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999

If you find a dead marine mammal contact the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme on 0800 6520333. There's further information in this leaflet.


The shallow coastal seas off the Sussex Coast are home to an amazing diversity of habitats. This habitat diversity supports an exceptionally wide range of animal and plant species and results in rich inshore fishing grounds. A number of the habitats within the Sussex IFCA District are recognised as internationally important for their conservation value, for example Chichester Harbour which, amongst other designations, is a Special Area of Conservation.

A wide variety of seabed types are present, ranging from fine mud in low-energy areas such as Rye Bay, to bedrock exposures of sandstone, limestone, chalk and mudstone. In general, the near shore seabed is an assortment of mixed sediments (especially gravel and shells) with sand and, in sheltered locations, mud. Gravel and mixed sediment habitats cover extensive subtidal and offshore areas of the eastern English Channel. There are also occasional and sometimes extensive areas of exposed bedrock and boulder reefs, often occurring off headlands such as Beachy Head and Selsey Bill. As a result of this mosaic of different sediment types, a wide variety of habitats are found on the Sussex seabed.

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The diverse seabed habitats off the Sussex Coast attract a great diversity of marine life and species of great commercial value are no exception. Each species is unique in its life cycle, behaviour and habitat preference and the fishermen utilise these characteristics to catch their target species e.g. baiting pots to attract bottom dwelling mobile shellfish like lobsters, crabs and whelks, or towing a net to catch the larger mobile fish which inhabit the mid water region. There are also species which migrate through the district or visit for a specific purpose for example cuttlefish are only present from May to July as they come inshore to breed. Follow the link below for descriptions on the most commercially important finfish and shellfish species for Sussex. The descriptions include notes on how to identify the species along with some biology and ecology including; size, lifespan, reproductive capacity, reproductive behaviour, migratory behaviour, habitat and predator and prey interactions. This is followed by information on the local fishery including; the fishing methods used to target that species and temporal and spatial fishing activity information, including how fishing activity relates to the species behaviour e.g. spawning and migrations.

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