No anchoring zones proposed for Studland Bay

No anchoring zones at the south-west end of the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone are being considered. The area is where most boats anchor

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has confirmed that there will be no changes ‘at this stage’ to mooring at Studland Bay in Dorset, but it is looking at introducing anchoring management measures.

It held two consultation meetings in March to develop suitable management measures.

Proposals include voluntary or enforceable no-anchor zones or the banning of anchoring on the site.

Three options for no anchoring zones were unveiled at last month’s online public consultation and stakeholder meetings, hosted by the Dorset Coast Forum.

Draft Anchoring Management Option 1 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit: MMO

Draft Anchoring Management Option 1 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit: MMO

These included banning anchoring from the south west end of the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), stretching from Old Harry Rocks to Middle Beach.

Draft Anchoring Management Option 2 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit: MMO

Draft Anchoring Management Option 2 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit: MMO

In option one, the anchoring ban would extend beyond the Knoll Beach slipway.

Draft Anchoring Management Option 3 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit:

Draft Anchoring Management Option 3 for Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone. Credit: MMO

The MMO is still consulting before announcing its final plans for the site.

In a statement to Yachting Monthly, it said it had received ‘extremely valuable feedback’ from both of the consultation meetings.

‘The MMO are now currently considering amendments to the draft management options. No decisions have been made yet and the MMO will communicate the next steps to stakeholders in the coming weeks,’ it added.

Studland Bay was designated an MCZ in 2019 because of its seagrass beds and its resident long-snouted seahorse population.

Due to its location and sheltered conditions, Studland is a popular anchorage for recreational sailors and many of the businesses in the area rely on visiting crews for income.

The MMO has already stated that 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’ no anchoring management was not an option.

A report – Natural England Commissioned Report NECR111 – by Natural England published in 2013 highlighted the damage anchoring can cause to seagrass, although it did acknowledge that evidence of anchor damage on seagrass beds is limited for the Zostera Marina variety of seagrass, which is found in Studland Bay, but extensive for other species of seagrass.

Most damage is done during the lifting of the anchor. It also highlighted seagrass loss as a result of boat moorings, with chains causing circular scaring within the seagrass beds.

In the MMO’s draft Studland Bay MCZ Activity Assessment, it concludes that the ‘impacts by abrasion or penetration from anchoring on the seagrass feature may result in a significant risk of hindering the achievement of the site’s conservation objectives’ and would also have indirect impacts to long-snouted seahorses.

The Boat Owners Response Group (BORG), which promotes the right of navigation, anchoring and mooring for boaters in the context of MCZs, has said there is little research on the impact of anchoring on the seagrass at Studland, with much of the scientific data using the more fragile Mediterranean seagrass Posidona Oceanica as the reference model for predictions about the bay, rather than the ‘robust, fast growing’ Zostera Marina variety which is found there.

It argues that seagrass beds in Studland Bay have actually expanded between 1972-2011, and highlights the Seastar Survey of the Studland seagrass beds which ‘clearly demonstrates that they are not highly sensitive to anchoring pressures, as no consistent statistically significant difference was found between anchored and non-anchored areas over two years.’

The Seastar Survey was carried out for The Crown Estate and Natural England between October 2009-October 2011.

BORG has raised concerns about the limited anchorage area available to 30-40ft yachts in the draft anchoring management options being considered.

It also argues that no anchoring zones should only include areas where seagrass is present and that the water in the bay is ‘reasonably clear’ so sailors can clearly see where to safely drop the anchor.

It says voluntary no anchoring zones will only work if this is the case.

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The RYA has already asked for voluntary protective measures for Studland, and that sensitive areas should be clearly identified both on navigational maps and in the water.

A recent study looking at seagrass loss in the UK has revealed that at least 44% has disappeared since 1936; 39% of that loss has occurred since the 1980s.

Pollution, mining, farming as well as dredging, bottom trawling, anchoring and coastal development have all contributed to the decline.

Scientists behind the paper – Historical Analysis Exposes Catastrophic Seagrass Loss for the United Kingdom – published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, have also found that seagrass can recover and believe this should help encourage seagrass restoration.

Work is also ongoing to raise awareness of the steps sailors can take to protect seagrass meadows.

The £2.5 million LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES project, which is led by Natural England, aims to examine the pros and cons of environmentally friendly moorings, as well as provide voluntary codes, targeted training and habitat restoration.

It is focused on five Marine Protected Areas in southern England: Isles of Scilly, Fal & Helford, Plymouth Sound & Estuaries, Solent Maritime, and Essex Estuaries Special Areas of Conservation.

The project, which runs until October 2023, has already collaborated with The Green Blue to publish The Green Guide to Anchoring and Moorings.

It is free and available here

NB This article has been updated after the Marine Management Organisation provided Yachting Monthly with original copies of the three charts outlining the draft anchoring management options.

The publication of these charts came with the following caveat:

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) are currently engaging about potential management measures for anchoring in Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). Dorset Coast Forum have recently hosted two engagement events to allow MMO to present some draft options and gather feedback. A meeting with representatives from key stakeholder groups took place on 18 March and three draft anchoring management options were proposed at this meeting. The MMO received valuable feedback from this meeting which helped shape our thinking. The following week, a public event took place on 25 March. The same information about the proposed options was communicated to the public, as well as how the MMO are responding to the feedback from the first event. You can view the presentation from the public event on the Dorset Coast Have Your Say website. Following extremely valuable feedback from both engagement events, the MMO are now currently considering amendments to the draft management options. No decisions have been made yet and the MMO will communicate the next steps to stakeholders in the coming weeks.

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Source: Yachting Monthly

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