West Bay Discovery Centre, West Bay, Bridport, DT6 4EN.

Fishing through time at West Bay

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Fishing has always been part of West Bay, a source of employment and something that attracts visitor interest. In our latest exhibition ‘Beneath the Waves we have bought to life the history of fishing along the Chesil Beach and in Lyme Bay. We tell the story of the seine fishing for mackerel and sprats in times gone by, and how more intensive fishing methods that overtook this traditional approach and then the return in more recent times to lower impact approaches as part of marine conservation and the creation of the Lyme Bay Marine Protection Area (MPA).

In the 1980s mounting concerns about the impacts of bottom trawling led to conservationists, fishermen, and regulators coming together to find a way to protect the precious reef habitats, while maintaining fishermen’s livelihoods. At the heart of the campaign was local fisherman, Dave Sales. In 2008 an announcement was made, protecting 60 square miles of Lyme Bay from towed fishing gear. Dave Sales work in protecting marine life was recognised by the award of the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2020. Sadly, he passed away in 2022. The Beneath the Waves exhibition is dedicated to him.

This area was expanded in 2010, creating one of the largest Marine Protected Areas in the UK. The fishermen also agreed a set of voluntary measures that helped avoid overfishing and benefited the fishing communities.  The protection has enabled regeneration of the seabed and the Centre’s exhibition includes stunning images of the reefs under Lyme Bay, described by some as “England’s Coral Garden”.  The exhibition, which has been supported by the Blue Marine Foundation, via Lyme Bay Reserve also includes a range of other images, information and short films.

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