Jersey’s waters, with its seagrass, kelp forests and maerl beds, showcase some of the best shallow marine habitats in the British Isles.
Jersey’s land area covers 120 square kilometres but is dwarfed by the surrounding 2,455 square kilometres of territorial sea. The unique character and ecology of Jersey’s environment supports a diverse range of wildlife, with over 3,000 known animal and plant species. Habitats range from kelp forests, seagrass and maerl beds to gravel and sand beds. Together these habitats should support a healthy, functioning ecosystem and provide a variety of services to the Island including food provision, nutrient cycling, climate change mitigation, coastal protection, and recreation and wellbeing. Jersey’s marine waters are also rich with sites of cultural, archaeological and historical significance. The Island’s huge 12 metre tides create 30 square kilometres of intertidal area at every low tide. This area holds some of the most diverse clam beds in Northern Europe, and the rocky intertidal zone, and outlying reefs, harbour flooded gully and waterfall habitats known nowhere else in the region.
Of Jersey’s 2,455 square kilometres of territorial sea, 6.5 per cent is designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), primarily in the form of No Mobile Gear Zones and one No-Take Zone, designated at Portelet Bay in 2022. Research to date has shown that the existing small network of MPAs are having a positive influence on diversity with a greater number of species compared to open areas.
As Jersey’s MPAs prohibit the use of mobile fishing gears, they represent a gold standard approach to conservation. This is in stark contrast to the UK, where despite MPAs covering more than 38 per cent of the UK’s domestic seas, a mere 8 per cent of this network is fully protected from damaging fisheries such as bottom-towed gears.
Marine Spatial Plan opportunity
While the level of protection in Jersey’s existing MPAs is high, they only cover 6.5 per cent of territorial waters. Over 93 per cent of Jersey’s seabed remains unprotected from mobile fishing gears and development such as offshore windfarms, including large proportions of sensitive habitats: shallow sandy reef (74 per cent), kelp forest (85 per cent), maerl beds (87 per cent), and sandmason worm habitats (36 per cent).
In 2022 the Government of Jersey initiated the process to develop a Marine Spatial Plan, which includes the development of a network of MPAs. The global climate and biodiversity crises require urgent action, and the development of further MPAs will play a key role in securing the long-term health of our ocean, the habitats and species that lie within, and the numerous services they provide.
In September 2023, Jersey’s Minister for the Environment announced the Government’s ambition for the island to take on board a Marine Park proposal by expanding the network of MPAs under the MSP, to cover 30 percent of territorial waters. This is Jersey’s first recognition and ambition towards 30 by 30, and a once in a generation opportunity to deliver meaningful marine protection.
Blue Marine’s role in Jersey
Blue Marine has been undertaking research alongside partners on-island and UK academic institutions to assess the benefits of Jersey’s existing MPAs. This evidence underpinned our proposal for a well-managed network of MPAs in the form of a Marine Park, closed to bottom-towed fishing gear, to cover over 30 per cent of Jersey’s territorial waters.
An MPA network of this expanse would protect key sensitive habitats, improving biodiversity and therefore help to secure the long-term health of commercially important fishery species. The protection of these habitats can also help to mitigate climate change by maintaining the integrity of carbon stores and areas of drawdown. Low-impact fisheries such as potting, rod and line, netting and scallop diving will benefit from having safe spaces to operate. Marine Park status could also draw in tourism while providing branding opportunities for local sustainable seafoods.
To ensure fishing communities can continue to operate, thrive and co-exist alongside marine conservation, Blue Marine is applying the model of fishery-science-conservation co-management developed in Lyme Bay. This model showed that through collaboration, fishing with low-impact methods is compatible with conservation goals and fishermen’s livelihoods can improve while marine biodiversity thrives.
In Jersey, we are working with fishermen to develop and support models of sustainable fishing (such as scallop potting and diving) and undertake research to inform local fisheries management and safeguard the future of commercially important species. Read more about our initiatives and research below:
Supporting Low-Impact Fisheries
Jersey Snorkel Trails
To raise awareness and build connections between people and the sea, Blue Marine launched Snorkel Portelet and Snorkel Bouley, in 2022 and 2023 respectively, providing residents and tourists the opportunity to explore Jersey’s amazing marine environment. Created by Blue Marine, in partnership with the Societe Jersiaise, the snorkel trail is the first of a new network planned for the Island. Find out more here.
In partnership with the Government of Jersey and the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, Blue Marine is supporting research to assess Jersey’s blue carbon ecosystems. Phase one, a desk-based study, has been published with further ground truthing work in progress.
Over the last four years, Blue Marine has supported a PhD student from the University of Plymouth, Sam Blampied, to measure the recovery of marine life within Jersey’s existing MPAs. This has provided crucial evidence that marine life recovers well when protected from mobile fishing gear such as dredging and trawling. A further six MSc students from University College London and the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter, have undertaken similar research, further strengthening the evidence base for marine protection and appropriate fisheries management.
Blue Marine has also produced a number of other research reports, such as a cost benefit analysis of a static gear marine park, an ecosystem service valuation and biodiversity assessment of a local offshore reef.
By working together, we can turn the tide on overfishing and the destruction of biodiversity. By supporting Blue Marine, you can help to create marine reserves around the world.