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Lyme Bay Reserve

The model Blue Marine helped develop in Lyme Bay is now the gold standard for managing marine protected areas. A win-win that benefits both small-scale fishers and the environment, its positive effects continue to be felt around the world. 

Blue Marine’s flagship project at Lyme Bay on the south coast of England is proof that sustainable fishing and conservation can co-exist. We began its collaborative model with local fishers in 2012, bringing them together with conservationists, researchers, and regulators to manage the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve and support local small-scale, static-gear fishing within sustainable limits. One of the largest Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK, the reserve protects more than 200 sq. km of the English Channel from dredging and trawling, preserving its rocky reefs and the country’s largest colony of pink sea fans.  

More than 15 years of research in the Bay has shown that a whole-site approach to MPA management can increase reef species by 95%, and the abundance of fish by almost 400%, while also making the seabed more resilient to storms. At the same time, the Lyme Bay experience has shown that when it comes to understanding and managing coastal ecosystems, people and nature are intricately linked.  

Blue Marine helped set up a Lyme Bay Committee so that scientists, fishing communities, NGOs and policy-makers could manage the MPA in collaboration. This allowed them to design conservation practices together, including voluntary Codes of Conduct, and built long-term trust between the different groups.  

To make it easier for static-gear fishers to fish within environmental limits, we have provided facilities to optimise the quality of their catch. Insulated fish-boxes, chiller units, ice machines, and a delivery van move fish in prime condition quickly to market, where it commands competitive prices.  

In 2023, Blue Marine supported the establishment of the pioneering Lyme Bay Fisherman’s Community Interest Company (CIC). The CIC is the embodiment of a community that has fully embraced – and promotes – conservation and sustainable fishing, to safeguard fish stocks and the marine environment for future generations.  

The Lyme Bay model is the gold standard for MPA management, and still delivers benefits to marine life and the communities that depend on it. Around the world, it continues to send out a ripple effect of positive change in the way that MPAs are managed.  

The Lyme Bay Reserve case study summarises how the project has restored an ecosystem. It is one of many project case studies in our BLUEprint for MPAs , a toolkit of ideas for creating and effectively managing MPAs. To see how finding common ground between fishing communities and conservationists can create a win-win model, watch our film ‘Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery’.

Lyme Bay

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