Current Projects

There are a number of projects and surveys currently underway at Southern IFCA. The aims of these projects are to better inform the evidence base for our fisheries and Marine Protected Areas to ensure that our fisheries management is well evidenced, robust and proportionate.

Many of our projects are running in collaboration with
partner organisations, academic institutions and stakeholders which allows us to share resources and expertise and to develop more fully survey design, implementation and the analysis of results.
 
Below is a list of our current projects:
 
 
University of Bournemouth PhD:


Harvesting invertebrates from coastal habitats: consequences for the invertebrates, their habitats and bird predators

Southern IFCA is working in partnership with Natural England and Bournemouth University on a project which aims to assess the impact of existing and future harvesting methods in intertidal waters within the Solent, to provide an evidence-base for future management and conservation within the region. The project will have the following objectives:

1. Assess the current and future extent of harvesting activities (including shellfishing and bait digging) within the Solent, including potential development of novel techniques. To do this through a combination of Southern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (SIFCA) databases and horizon scanning with expert groups.

2. Assess the mechanisms through which these activities could affect bird populations – e.g. through the removal of food, changing the size distribution of prey, altering habitat structure, disturbing the birds. To do this through a combination of literature reviews and new fieldwork.


3. Conduct field surveys to determine the effect of invertebrate harvesting on the structure, sediment size and invertebrate populations of intertidal habitats. This will focus on clam dredging in the Solent, as this is a technique that is of particular conservation concern, but will also address any priority methods identified in Objective 1.

4. Develop detailed models of the interaction between birds and fishing in sites (termed focal sites below) for which suitable data on the abundance and size distribution of invertebrate prey species are available. Data and previous models are available for Southampton Water and Chichester Harbour, which were developed in the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project; these models will be to be adapted to incorporate harvesting activities.

5. Predict the effect of current and future harvesting on survival and body condition of birds in the focal sites. In doing so, highlight general predictions that are likely to apply more broadly across the Solent. For example, threshold levels of depletion that adversely affect the birds, or the relative impact of activities that occur at low and high tide.

6. Apply the understanding gained from Objectives 1 to 5 to propose a strategy for managing harvesting activities within coastal habitats. This will include an assessment of the threats posed by existing and novel methods, methods to detect whether harvesting is likely to be adversely affecting bird populations, and proposed conservation measures to minimise the effects of harvesting.


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Solent Oyster Survey

In 2013 the Southern IFCA placed a temporary closure on the native oyster fishery in the Solent due to declines in stock. Evidence is required, in the form of a stock assessment, to aid decision making in future management of this fishery. In the past, an annual survey monitoring the oyster stock has been undertaken by CEFAS, using the existing survey framework the Southern IFCA will be undertaking the survey from 2014.

The survey will be carried out in the summer at sites in the eastern and western Solent with the results feeding in to a dataset that has been running for over 20 years and also providing a baseline for the current state of the Solent oyster stock against which to assess future management. The project will allow involvement of local stakeholders with a fishing vessel and gear commonly used for the fishery used to carry out the sampling and the IFCA staff will be involved in the collection, analysis, report writing and outreach and communication for the survey.

 
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Solent Bass Survey

The Southern IFCA is working with CEFAS, BASS and Sussex IFCA to continue the CEFAS survey carried out since 1981 in the Solent, Southampton Water, Langstone and Chichester Harbours, areas which include the most important bass nursery areas on the south coast of England.

All species caught are recorded (numbers and length) including mullet, seabream and other key fishing species found as juveniles in the Solent region. The data collected will provide a valuable resource to the IFCA in terms of stock density and distribution of commercial species.

The survey provides a recruitment index series for seabass based on standardised catch rates of age 2-4 bass. This is the only data used currently in the ICES stock assessment and without it the evidence available to support bass fishery management and distinguish the effects of environment from fishing will be impacted.
 

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University of Southampton PhD:

Bait collection in Poole Harbour and other estuaries in the Southern IFCA District

Bait collection occurs across the Southern IFCA District and has been identified as a high risk amber activity in Poole Harbour and the Solent European Marine Sites.

This PhD project has been run in conjunction with the University of Southampton since 2012 and aims to provide evidence on the impacts of bait collection on the features of EMS and quantified effort data on the distribution of the activity. Currently the project is focusing on bait dragging activity in Poole Harbour assessing impacts on the sediment and the target species King Ragworm, through experimental dragging and grab sampling, and quantifying the effort of the fishery through remotely collected positioning data with stakeholder participation.

The results will be used to provide an evidence base to inform management of this activity looking at where overlap occurs with conservation features and how this overlap may be affecting the ability to further the conservation objectives of those features. Future development of this project will also involve a survey to quantify bait digging in Poole Harbour and an assessment of impacts from this activity on the recovery rates in the intertidal.
 

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Angling Strategy Development

Sea Angling is an important fishing sector in the Southern IFCA District providing significant economic inputs to local communities. The Southern IFCA is currently working to develop a Sea Angling Strategy working with CEFAS and local stakeholders.

Sea Angling 2012 was a project run by the UK Government to provide data on recreational sea angling to ensure that the needs of this sector can be properly represented in future marine policy and the development of fisheries management. The development of the Southern IFCA strategy will collate the evidence provided by Sea Angling 2012 and develop useful management measures to support recreational sea angling in parallel with stakeholder consultation.
The project aims to undertake the following:
  • Collate evidence from Sea Angling 2012 report
  • Identify District specific strengths, weaknesses and gaps in evidence
  • Prioritise any evidence needs and where appropriate conduct survey work
  • Consult with stakeholders from the sea angling sector to identify District and site specific needs and requirements
  • Develop strategy to implement the needs of the industry into review of managment
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Portland Mussel Survey

This project collects data to inform the annual Appropriate Assessment of the Mussel Seed Fishery in the Studland to Portland EMS. The Appropriate Assessment is required for the potential impacts of the proposed fishery in view of the integrity and conservation objectives of the site.

The survey involves the collection of underwater camera footage which is then analysed for mussel density, presence of megafauna, presence/absence of mussel spat and mussel average length. The data is also used to map the extent of the mussel beds in the area.
 

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Poole Harbour Clam and Cockle Survey

This survey is undertaken annually to help determine the impact of the clam and cockle fisheries on the natural bivalve populations in Poole Harbour. The project provides opportunities for collaborative working with data in the past analysed by a student from the University of Southampton.

There are 6 specified survey sites with dredge and grab samples taken. All clams and cockles are counted and measured and the data is used to assess the population status of each species.

Results from this survey feed in to the Appropriate Assessment for the clam season each year where fishing for clam is licenced by the Southern IFCA.


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