Scientists have reported a positive recovery in Jersey's recently-created protected marine habitats where trawling and dredging have been banned.
Seagrass and maerl beds, known for their biodiversity and high value to juvenile commercial fish and shellfish species, are showing positive signs.
The seagrass is in Les Minquiers, which has been a marine protected area (MPA) since 2017. The Maerl beds are in the south-west MPA, which has been protected for the last six years.
Jersey has committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 - and the Blue Marine Foundation says these habitats will have vital roles to play if that target is to become a reality.
"Signs of habitat recovery within Les Minquiers after just a few years of protection are extremely encouraging. The recovery of seagrass and maerl, bringing with them their biodiversity and carbon benefits, demonstrate the benefits that MPA creation can bring to Jersey’s waters." - Sam Blampied, University of Plymouth PhD researcher.
The initial results from inspections of these areas have also shown high numbers of juvenile scallops across protected maerl beds within Les Ecrehous and the South East MPA. Edible crab larvae have also been recorded in the maerl beds.
Picture Credit: Sue Daly
There have also been regular sightings of the critically endangered tope, which is a species of shark. The BLUE (Blue Marine Foundation) says four were spotted during the summer, which indicates that the MPA's are providing refuge from exploitation.
"These findings show just how quickly the marine environment can recover when it is left alone and protected from harmful fishing practices like trawling and dredging which still take place in a shocking number of UK and Channel Islands marine reserves.
"We applaud the Jersey Government’s commitment to carbon neutrality and hope that this will translate in the near future into more marine protected areas or ideally a marine park, as floated by a senior minister a few months ago." - Charles Clover, Executive Director of the Blue Marine Foundation.
The Marine Park was floated as an idea in the recent Island Plan debate by Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham. He says it has great potential and 'can represent a new beginning for Jersey's inshore fishing fleet'.
The Blue Marine Foundation has called for more MPA's 'for the benefit of biodiversity, carbon and fishermen's livelihoods.'
"BLUE hopes that by using an evidence-based approach to managing Jersey’s seas and working with fishermen, benefits can be secured for marine life and those who depend on Jersey’s seas. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with the Société Jersiaise, the Government of Jersey and other stakeholders on the Island."
Seagrass Picture Credit: Sue Daly.