The Potting Study
The Lyme Bay Experimental Potting project was commissioned by DEFRA and funded by Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) in order to assess the impact of static potting on benthic reef habitats as well as commercially targeted species within the Lyme Bay marine protected area (MPA). Carried out by Dr Adam Rees at the University of Plymouth, the project was set up partly in response to concerns raised by local fishermen about the potential for an increase in static potting after mobile fishing was banned from inside the Lyme Bay MPA.
Starting in 2013, this project manipulated potting densities across sixteen experimental treatment areas to create a gradient of potting effort from no potting through to low, medium and high levels. Inside these areas, towed and baited video data were collected in order to assess changes in benthic and mobile assemblages in response to increasing potting pressures. Additional quantitative catch data was collected to monitor the commercial catch composition of mainly brown crab and lobster, the species primarily targeted by potting in Lyme Bay. This work was carried out in partnership with local fishermen onboard their vessels from 2014-2017.
This pioneering research revealed that sustainable levels of pot fishing can be used within UK waters, benefitting both fisheries and conservation with a low-impact, high-reward strategy. It showed that the number of pots used by fishermen under a 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 building species and commercially targeted species that had started to return following the ban on trawling could be negatively affected.
The final report was published in 2019 and in 2021 the results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Read the Plymouth University media report: