Keeping our coastline safe and sustainable is everyday work at Worthing Coastal Office. Rob Dove and his highly trained team cover the beaches from Shoreham to Ferring in all weathers. They run foot patrols, quad bikes, a jet ski and a powerful rib. Much of their work is about people: finding lost children in summer, first aid, by-laws and clearing up after illegal beach fires. But they know nature must go hand in hand with people.
Plastics of all sizes are an obvious issue. A particularly deadly problem for the wildlife is the abandoned fishing nets which kill hundreds of creatures. These nets are collected by the beach wardens along with other plastic and made safe. Injured animals are cared for until experts can restore them to health.
“Despite everything, our water quality is good!” declares Rob encouragingly. “We see seals, dolphins, and huge shoals of mackerel.
“As covid reduced human activity, the animals seemed to gain confidence and moved back in.”
Partnerships are crucial. The Coastal Office, funded by Worthing Council, works with the various marine conservation and fisheries bodies. The long-term aim is to make Sussex Bay a sustainable and attractive location for residents, visitors, fisheries and the all-important wildlife.
“I’ve never had a job before where I have been able to make such a positive difference!” says Rob.
“We offer educational talks emphasising both sea safety and the rich life under the waves, so that when the young people leave the beach, they’ve had a safe and fun day”, explained warden Michelle Cannon, a former teacher.
There is a free kit for visitors who want to explore the inter-tidal zone, represented by Rockpool Reef, a large tank inside the office There are amazing anemones, crabs, starfish and molluscs and fish will soon be introduced. Meanwhile, chief resident here is Dart the cuttlefish, who was grown from one of the eggs collected during survey work. Dart will be rewilded at 6 months, and
Rob has a vision: “This is one of the richest marine environments in the world. We want people to be as passionate about the sea as they are about the Downs. It’s about our precious green AND blue spaces.”
It’s your coast too. Worthing isn’t far. Why not come to see the team’s achievements for yourself?
By Keir Hartley