It’s been a long time coming but finally the management measures to protect spawning black bream in Sussex’s Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) have been enacted by the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SxIFCA) in a new bylaw.

From now on anglers fishing within the new MCZ have to adhere to a four-fish per-angler per-day bag limit for black beam, which use the site to build nests in which the eggs are laid, and where the male fish protect them until they hatch. It’s this unusual behaviour that makes these cracking little fish vulnerable to habitat damage and overfishing.

Trawling, netting, potting, lining and dive gathering are all subject to restrictions in order to protect what is the most important known breeding site for black bream in UK waters. The Kingmere is renowned for bream fishing but also for a wide variety of other species that inhabit the reef and which draw anglers from all over the country to the charter boats of Littlehampton, Brighton and Shoreham-by-Sea.

Some anglers may be disappointed at having another bag limit imposed on their freedoms to fish but the facts of the matter
aræ that recreational anglers are the only sector that will be allowed to fish for and retain black bream during the spawning season (April 1st to June 30th) and may do this in three out of the four management zones within the MCZ. Trawling and netting are prohibited during this period. During the rest of the year all the management zones are open to angling with a four-bream per-day bag limit. Trawling will continue to be prohibited in all but one zone, the ‘paleo channel’.

Many conservationists would have liked to have seen angling for bream banned completely within the MCZ as incompatible
with the objectives to protect the spawning fish. The compmmise position lutched whereby anglers can still fish for and retain bream in all but one section (which is only closed for three months) is in no small part down to the superhuman lengths the Angling Trust, and in particular members of the Angling Trust Sussex Marine Region, went to over the course of three years of discussions with the SKIFCA and other organisations involved, such as Natural England.

To begin with it was clear that many anglers and charter skippers had no idea about the MCZ or the possibility that angling could be impacted by it. Bit by bit, though public meetings, social media and other forms of communication we helped to raise awareness of it and build some consensus around what anglers would find acceptable and be prepared to live with.

Those refusing to accept any kind of restriction on their fishing were living in cloud-cuckoo-land, and those With their heads buried in the sand, hoping it would all go away and that angling would be protected by going under the radar, were also living in some kind of alternative reality! Like it or not there had to be a compromise position to protect black bream and protect recreational angling for them. The end result is one that we believe strikes about the best possible balance we could have hoped for and anglers should be pleased that their ability to fish for and retain black bream from the Kingmere reef, in the absence of trawlers (mostly), has been secured while also contributing to making sure the breeding and nesting fish aren’t overexploited and generations of anglers can continue to enjoy the Kingmere’s bounty for years to come.

However, beyond the boundaries of the MCZ pair trawling for bream continues with very few limits, if any, on what be taken. So, while protecting the spawning site on the Kingmere makes sense, so does thinking about what the best use of this high recreational value, low commelual value, really is.

For more information on the Kingmere MCZ and the Marine Protected Area bylaw check out the Sussex IFCA website at www.sussex-ifca.gov.uk or visit the Marine Campaigns page of the Angling Trust website: www.anglingtrust.net