Location & Conservation ZonesAbove the tide mark, Lyme Bay is one of the most spectacular and most valued landscapes in Britain. The shoreline of Lyme Bay, which is partly in Dorset, partly in Devon, is part of Britain's only natural World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast.
Below the tide mark, Lyme Bay's reefs are now the country's largest marine protected area, with more than 60 square miles closed to scallop dredging and bottom trawling and a slightly larger area as a European candidate reserve. But compared with established national parks on land - which conservationists compared Lyme Bay with when its seabed habitats were protected - the business of marine protection remains unfinished business. The main reason is that the public right to fish continues to apply to all the fisheries that have not been excluded from the area and a more appropriate system of management, which recognises the most sustainable forms of fishing, rewards them, but also stops them from getting out of hand, has yet to be devised.
Lyme Bay is ahead of the rest of the country in terms of conservation, because the most damaging activities have already been excluded from the most sensitive areas. But it is also a work in progress. The tide of regulation has reached its high tide mark and retreated, without creating a system that can resolve future conflicts and achieve a win-win for conservation and extractive use - which is earnestly to be wished for. So Lyme Bay represents a crucible for thinking which could provide nationally workable solutions relevant across the network of protective designations now being implemented, SACs, SPAs and MCZs. That is what the Lyme Bay Working Group, made up of fishermen, regulators and conservationists, believes.