Marine Management Organisation seeks evidence and views from boat owners
One of the South Coast’s most popular boating areas, Studland Bay, just outside the entrance to Poole Harbour, is likely to be the subject of further restrictions in order to protect delicate natural environments and sea creatures.
Boat owners are being urged to respond to a ‘call for evidence and views’ that closes in mid-December.
At issue are three related marine wildlife types: Sub-tidal sand, seagrass and rare seahorses. A draft assessment has been published that indicates all three are affected by mooring and anchoring. The assessment also concludes that the seagrass beds and long-snout seahorses are affected, additionally, by sailing and powerboating with an engine. And finally, that seahorses are affected by any boating activity, including sailing without an engine, kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing and more.
Studland Bay was designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in 2019.
At the time, the Government said that anchoring and mooring would need to be managed to protect the seagrass beds.
Now the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is looking at how to manage the site, and sailors have until the 15 December to respond.
The letter to stakeholders sent at the end of October lists the options for managing all the various types of ‘non-licensable marine activity’ but states that the least intrusive, Option 1, has been all but ruled out already. For example:
Management options for anchoring
Option 1: No additional management. Introduce a monitoring and control plan within the site
This monitoring and control plan would be introduced to understand levels of activity and potential impacts on the protected features. From this plan it would be ascertained whetherfurther management measures are required.
Option2: Voluntary no anchor zones
This option would involve boat users voluntarily avoiding specified areas to drop anchors.
Option 3: No anchor zones
This option would involve boat users being prohibited to drop anchor in specified areasvia an MMO byelaw.
Option4: Prohibition of anchoring
This option would involve boat users being prohibited to drop anchor within the whole MCZ via an MMO byelaw.
At this time, we do not believe that management option 1 is sufficient to protect Studland Bay MCZ due to the levels of anchoring activity occurring at the site as well as the evidence for the damage caused by anchoring on the features of the site.
The letter goes on to list the management options for Mooring, powerboating or sailing with an engine (launching and recovery, participation), sailing without an engine (launching and recovery, participation) and recreational diving and snorkelling.
Questions to consider
The letter outlines a number of ways to frame your response to the proposed new management plans:
- How would each of the proposed management options affect you?
- What other effects will each of the proposed management options have?
- With regard to management options 2 and 3 for anchoring, to achieve the conservation objectives of the site: What proportion and/or which parts of the site should be subject to no anchor zones (voluntary or otherwise)?
- With regard to management option 4 for mooring, to achieve the conservation objectives of the site: What proportion and/or which parts of the site should be subject to no mooring zones?