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Lyme Bay – The Road To Recovery

2020 marked ten years since the Lyme Bay marine protected area was designated. This landmark was celebrated with the launch of a documentary film  Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery by award-winning director Rupert Murray.

The film showcases how listening, learning and finding common ground between fishing communities and conservationists can create a win-win model for sustainable marine management. The film and several reviews following the premiere can be found below.

Rupert Murray, award-winning director of British documentary films Unknown White Male and The End of the Line, allowed the Lyme Bay fishermen to tell their own story in his new half-hour documentary. In it, fishermen explain how they came together to solve the new challenges that arose after the marine protected area was created – and how a proliferation of static pots and nets was solved through a voluntary code.

Jim Newton, fisherman and Chairman of the East Devon Fisherman’s Association, said: “The great value to us has been in the collaboration between fishermen, BLUE, scientists and the powers-that-be, all meeting together in one room and getting to the root of the problems we’ve had.”

In addition to the benefits to the area’s local, small-scale fishermen, the film also documents the conservation “wins” that have occurred. Once trawling and dredging stopped, Lyme Bay’s fragile seabed and coral gardens were given a chance to recover. Plymouth University scientists observed a 22 per cent increase in fragile pink sea fans following the ban and a three times greater abundance of all bottom-living species in the reserve compared with outside. They also saw a nearly four-fold increase in the abundance of commercially valuable fish.

Charles Clover, Executive Director of BLUE, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to share this film with the Lyme Bay fishing community and to be able to show the UK, and the rest of the world, that properly managed marine protected areas can provide tangible benefits to fishermen as well as to the marine environment. We hope this ‘win-win’ model of sustainable fishing will be adopted elsewhere in the UK and abroad”.

A pioneering four-year study undertaken by BLUE and Plymouth University monitored the effect of potting on Lyme’s reefs and fishermen’s catch, and showed that the number of pots used by fishermen under their voluntary code of conduct had little impact on the marine environment. However, if commercial intensity were to increase above a measurable “threshold”, the study revealed that the reef species that have started to return following the ban on trawling could be negatively affected.

Dave Sales, fisherman and Ex-Sea Fisheries Committee representative who was awarded the British Empire Medal this year for his services to fishing and conservation, said: “The great recovery that has been started in Lyme Bay is a wonderful example for the conservation of all inshore waters.”

The documentary premiere was also held to raise awareness of the challenges caused for small-scale fishermen by the Covid-19 pandemic and second UK lockdown. The screening promoted various initiatives including #Call4Fish and #LocalFishForDinner with the aim of supporting fishermen during the lockdown.

Reviews of Lyme Bay: The Road to Recovery

“I have just watched you short film on the 10 years of the Lyme Bay reserve. A big well done on getting this out for all to see. Me and many recreational sea anglers in the area would also like to thank you for all your hard work as the fishing in and around the reserve has also improved no end. We now have bigger and better fish to catch and release and also new species arriving more frequently. Well done.”

Mike Spiller, Hon sec of Honiton sea angling club and the Angling Trust Wyvern Region. (via email)

“Just watched the premiere… great work Tim, grand story!”

Nick Lambert, Co-founder and Director of NLA International. (via email)

“Thank you for the opportunity to ‘attend’ the premier. When there is so much bad news about for the fishing industry it was heartening to see different side. What has been achieved in Lyme Bay is truly remarkable and it is heartening to see local fishermen at the heart of this. There are important lessons to be drawn and there is no reason why other fishing communities around the coast should not enjoy similar benefits and opportunities. It just requires imagination, grit and a lot of hard work. Blue has shown what can be achieved. Let us hope that this is just the beginning. Congratulations to all involved.”

Rodney Anderson, former Defra Director of Fisheries and Marine. (via email)

“What an amazing film! As an end user I’m always trying to ensure we only use seafood recommended by the MCS good fish guide. Now we can go a step further & aim to buy from ‘reserve’ too!”

Kathryn Haskins, Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant, Lyme Regis. (via email)

“Thoroughly enjoyed the film, inspirational and a great story. Thank you for inviting us to the premier.”

Lee Hardy OBE, NLA International. (via email)