Research and Science

Sussex IFCA conducts research to gather evidence to support the decision making processes of the Authority. We work in partnership with a wide range of organisations. Below are highlights from our current work plan. These are identified as priorities under our Four Year Research Plan.

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Small fish monitoring
We 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.
© Sussex IFCA
More information:
IFCA Fish Survey Best Practice Guidance
Summary of all 2018 small fish surveys
Medmerry small fish survey 2018
Rye small fish survey 2018
Chichester Harbour small fish survey 2018
Tide Mills small fish survey 2017
Chichester Harbour small fish surveys 5 year analysis 2010-2014
Application of the Environment Agency's Transitional Fish Classification Index to Chichester Harbour small fish survey data 2010-2014
Pagham Harbour Pilot Survey

Theme: Sustainable marine resource exploitation
Sub-theme: Fisheries biology data
We are working with local fishermen and universities 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're also looking at the fishing pressures on the whole stock.
We received funding from the Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) to conduct a project called Supporting Sustainable Sepia Stocks.
Report 1: The biology and ecology of the common cuttlefish
Report 2: The English Channel fishery for common cuttlefish
Report 3: Assessing the efficacy of the egg receptors within fishing traps used to target common cuttlefish

Theme: Sustainable marine resource exploitation
Sub-theme: Fisheries biology data
There is a small-scale but locally important fishery for native oysters in Chichester Harbour. Fishing by dredging takes place for a couple of weeks each November. A stock assessment is conducted in the autumn to inform flexible management measures. We also work with the environmental health officers from the local councils to gather catch per unit effort and length-frequency data.
More information on the 2017 fishery

See our other Chichester Harbour project work here

Theme: Sustainable marine resource exploitation
Sub-theme: Fishing activity
When officers are on sea patrols, they record sightings of fishing vessels. This data can be used to create maps which show where there is varying levels of effort for different fishing methods. This can be useful for fisheries management, in particular, in Marine Protected Areas.

More information about fishing effort 2013-2017
More information about fishing effort density 2007-2016 is available on our interactive map

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Endangered, threatened or protected species

Elasmobranchs are a group of animals which includes sharks, skates and rays. They have cartilaginous skeletons and give birth either to live young or they lay eggs cases, known as mermaids purses. They are slow to reach reproductive age and produce low numbers of offspring which means that they can be vulnerable to over fishing. 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 this poster.
More information about elasmobranchs is available from the Shark Trust

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Marine Protected Areas
Spawning black seabream are a conservation feature of Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone. We want to further understand the recreational sea angling activity around black seabream, in particular in relation to the Marine Conservation Zone, to support our management measures. We are asking anglers to fill in catch information forms and are gathering catch data at sea and in port.

More information about Kingmere MCZ
More information about the anglers’ information forms
The online version of the anglers' information form
The MS Excel version of the anglers' information form

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Marine Protected Areas
In consultation with stakeholders, we have developed management measures for a range of Marine Protected Areas in our District, including Marine Conservation Zones and European Marine Sites. We use evidence based decision making to balance the protection of the marine environment and the use of it, supporting nature and livelihoods. Now management is in place for the designated sites, we are monitoring the activities in these areas and the protected features to make sure that our management is suitable.

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Habitats
We are working with Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre and other project partners to create an online interactive map which showcases the fascinating diversity of habitats and species in the Sussex marine environment.

Theme: Ecosystem interactions
Sub-theme: Habitats

The Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) were commissioned to interpret bathymetry, backscatter and groundtruthing 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. Click here for the report on the habitat mapping in the 1km inshore strip along the Sussex coast.
All swath bathymetry data collected through the Southeast Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme are freely available, under Open Government Licence from either as text, ascii or SD (Fledermaus) files. The EUNIS Level 3 marine habitat map and substrate type map are also available for viewing and download as shapefiles.
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. The full report is available here.

Theme: Sustainable marine resource exploitation
Sub-theme: Fisheries biology data
Officers measure lobsters caught by fishermen, either at sea or in port. This opportunistic sampling helps to support our Shellfish Permit Byelaw. We can see how many lobsters are caught per number of pots hauled and look at what section of the population is being caught by looking at their lengths. We are working with CEFAS to support their stock assessment project.
In addition, fishers who hold a Shellfish Permit are required to send us data on their catch. The report on the 2016/17 data is available here.


Theme: Socio-economics
Sub-theme: Archaeology
The seas around the UK contain a wealth of archaeological sites. It is not uncommon for users of the marine environment to discover artefacts and it is responsible for Sussex IFCA to play a role by engaging in marine archaeology.

More information about Fishing Industry Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries (FIPAD)

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