Skip to main content

£100k award accelerates pace of pioneering marine rewilding project

An ambitious collaborative project working to enable nature to take the lead across 100 miles of Sussex coastline is to be awarded £100k of funding from the Rewilding Challenge Fund. 

Sussex Bay Aerial of Brighton seafront
 © Sussex Bay

Sussex Bay, the organisation behind the project, has a vision for a healthy marine ecosystem for the Sussex Bay area, an extensive seascape that encompasses 100 miles of coastline from Selsey Bill to Camber Sands and is home to over 1 million residents.

Formed over the past two years from radical collaboration with over 200 groups, organisations, and partners — including local authorities, charities and diverse communities of residents and businesses — the project aims to create and deliver a pioneering seascape-scale strategy for the entire coastline.

Funding from Rewilding Britain, awarded as part of its annual Rewilding Challenge Fund, will enable Sussex Bay to accelerate its ambitions into 2025, increasing nature-led recovery of marine habitats already underway and creating opportunities for community engagement, employment, education and circular economy projects.

Paddleboarding in Sussex Bay
 © Sussex Bay

Jacques Villemot, Marine Rewilding Coordinator for Rewilding Britain, said: The amazing habitats found in our oceans and coastlines – like kelp, oyster beds and saltmarsh – offer a myriad of benefits for wildlife, nature and people. They act as natural carbon stores, support diverse ecosystems of wildlife, improve water quality, act as a buffer to help protect coastlines from storm surges and provide invaluable resources and livelihoods to local communities.

But, sadly, the majority of these habitats are heavily degraded or lost — 96% of the once extensive kelp beds in West Sussex have been lost since the 1980s. The Sussex Bay rewilding project is delivering on an urgent need to develop a seascape approach to help drive nature recovery at scale, considering a multitude of species and habitats whilst also creating and progressing opportunities for community engagement, enrichment of local economies and education. Rewilding Britain is delighted to be able to support this work and enable Sussex Bay’s rewilding ambitions to reach new heights.”

Funding awarded by Rewilding Britain will support Sussex Bay in its seascape strategy by enabling the appointment of a Science Lead to their Blue Natural Capital Lab project, along with contributing towards several pilot projects. The Science Lead will collaborate with the 200 groups operating projects along Sussex Bay to create a cohesive seascape framework. 

The funding will also help develop several community enrichment initiatives including a work-experience tool-kit for those interested in working in the marine, rewilding and land management sectors, and a multi-discipline marine nature recovery programme for young people developed with partners including Weald to Waves and the Sussex Dolphin Project. Sussex Bay is also working with the Sussex Dolphin Project to enable students to complete training with Sussex Bay cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

Paul Brewer, Founder and Director of Sussex Bay, said: We are absolutely delighted to reach this milestone, which was only possible with the support and encouragement from so many people across the region and further afield. There is so much incredible passion, commitment and practical effort across Sussex Bay, and we aim to help grow that further. Our seascapes deserve radical collaboration and action at a large scale, ensuring no one is left behind. Thank you Rewilding Britain for your support.”

Sussex Bay will be officially launching at an event in Brighton in June. Later that same evening, Sussex Bay will be partnering with Blue Earth Summit on their Futures series, shining a spotlight on the future of coastlines. Additionally, Sussex Bay will join a panel discussion at TedxBrighton, on 5 April 2024. More details about these events will be shared by Sussex Bay and partners in the next few weeks. 

Sussex Bay is the second ever recipient of Rewilding Britain’s Rewilding Challenge Fund, launched in 2022. The first recipient, Kent Wildlife Trust, was awarded £100k in 2023 to scale up the Trust’s rewilding efforts within and beyond West Blean and Thornden Woods, the largest ancient woodland in southern England and home to the UK’s first reintroduced European bison.