Eelgrass and Anchoring: an Overview
Seahorse Numbers in Studland Bay: the Truth
by Michael Simons, for Boat Owners' Response Group (BORG), October 2014
There are earlier reports of occasional sightings before and after World War 2, but in 2004 a pregnant seahorse was spotted in Studland Bay by Julie Hatcher of the Dorset Wildlife Trust. The Seahorse Trust (SHT) then started a diving programme in 2008 to study the seahorses in the Bay. There were comparatively large numbers of sightings in the first three years, then sightings declined substantially. The SHT had been trumpeting the importance of this seahorse “colony” and its decrease left them embarrassed and looking for a scapegoat. They fixed the blame on boat anchoring, saying it was destroying the eelgrass habitat, and lurid articles appeared in the press to that effect. This short article exposes the lack of truth behind that false accusation.
Seahorses are not year-round residents, they migrate into the Bay for 3 or 4 months of the summer, the other 8 or 9 months they are somewhere else in deeper water (exactly where is not known). The “colony” is then a transient affair.
These are total sightings, including repeat sightings of the same seahorses. Actual numbers of individuals will be much lower, for instance in a period in 2009, 29 sightings of tagged seahorses were accounted for by just 5 individuals. So 29 was really 5! Figures taken from SHT publications.
Seahorse numbers declined from 2011. There is aerial photographic evidence that the eelgrass beds expanded inshore between 2008 and 2011, i.e. , and that there was no increased fragmentation. Professional dived survey work in 2009, 2010 and 2011 showed that there was
in the main anchoring areas in those three years: see pp 24 – 27 of the report . Yet from 2010 to 2011 seahorse sightings declined from 66 to 9 while measured eelgrass properties remained constant. To claim that this decline was because of changed or reduced eelgrass is to deny the evidence, and resort to
There are about 100 hectares (1 million sq metres) of eelgrass in the Bay, . There is then no way that lack of eelgrass area can be a limiting factor for the small number of seahorses present, which over the whole period 2009 – 2012 averaged on any given dive day , and exceeded four seahorses on only five out of over 96 dive days. (see detailed analysis ). The alleged “colony” at any given time was actually very small.
Shown below are aerial photographs of the same part of the moorings area where the seahorses were studied, for 2008 and 2011. The 2011 eelgrass edge was 5m nearer the shore, by scaled measurement relative to the beach huts. They are similar, and in no way can any differences explain a 6-fold decrease in seahorse sightings.
2008 2011Little is known about seahorse migration, whether they try to return to the same area in the spring, or whether they just end up where tides, waves and currents wash them. They are very weak and slow swimmers, and their arrival will be influenced by random and highly variable factors. There are not enough data to establish any sort of baseline summer migrant population, so there is as yet no “expected” or “normal” number. Many factors might affect how many turn up, including:
• tides, currents, wind, waves and weather • variable predation: being eaten by predator fish and birds before, during and after migration (bass, pollack,
undulate ray and seagulls for example) • dying during winter storms • disease • just ending up somewhere else • having visible tags attached: the SHT tied an undisclosed number of plastic identification tags round their
necks from 2009 – 2012: tags can disrupt seahorse camouflage and attract the attention of predators, and could cause other problems. We understand that no tagged seahorse has been found to return to the Bay the following year. The tags could be a cause of seahorse mortality. (See pp 2, 11 of report )
• general disturbance by divers searching for them
As well as variability in number of seahorses actually present, there is variability in detection: 260 dive hours were spent searching for seahorses in 2009, 365 hrs in 2010, then a steep decline in dive hours in subsequent years. Fewer divers, fewer sightings. And if the water is cloudy, fewer sightings.
of the Evidence by Michael Simons, September 2014, for the Boat Owners' Response Group
It is acknowledged that fixed chain moorings cause bare seabed scars, due to repeated scouring by the heavy mooring chain. This is different to the effect of normal boat anchoring as (a) the chains are much heavier than boat anchor chains, and (b) the ongoing scouring action is confined to exactly the same area of seabed. However, as they are fixed at one end to the sea floor, the scars' positions and size are fixed, and despite speculation, there is no evidence of a scar spreading beyond the (usually circular) area swept by the chain. So damage is caused, but it is limited and finite, perhaps 0.2% of the total eelgrass area in Studland Bay. It is not considered further in this overview.
It is also acknowledged that there is evidence that certain other species of seagrass have been significantly damaged by leisure boat anchors, however these species have very different resistance and recovery characteristics to eelgrass (Zostera marina). Further, anchoring practices can differ in the parts of the world in which these grow.
This overview considers evidence which relates to the possibility that leisure boat anchoring might cause significant damage to eelgrass beds or the eelgrass habitat, in Studland Bay, Dorset, and elsewhere in England, and for the most part will refer to articles already published by the author on the website of the Boat Owners' Response Group. These in turn draw on the worldwide published scientific literature on eelgrass, the most comprehensively studied of all the species of seagrass, and full references are given in the articles. Active links to relevant articles and papers are given in the text of this overview.
2. Eelgrass and anchoring in the worldwide scientific literature
The author is aware of no published paper which demonstrates damage to the eelgrass habitat by leisure boat anchors. A paper by Collins et al (2010) claimed to study anchor-damaged areas, but failed to demonstrate that the areas concerned had actually been affected by anchoring (http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Workshop_presentation7.pdf see slides 9 and 10).
This challenge – that there is no paper in the worldwide literature showing anchor damage to eelgrass – was presented by the author in 2012, since when nobody has come forward with any such paper. There are papers showing damage by propeller scarring and boats grounding, and a good number dealing with damage by fishing gear, but not, to the author's knowledge, by anchoring.
This conclusion is based on the use of internet search engines, although the possibility always exists of a reference being missed. However a clear negative result is given by a recent paper on Nordic eelgrass (CHRISTOFFER BOSTRÖM et al 2014
which surveys the status and health of all the eelgrass in the Nordic countries, up to 2000 sq km of it, in the Baltic and the Norwegian Atlantic coast. The paper runs to 25 pages and cites 113 references. A word-search of the entire document showed that the words anchor or anchoring do not occur even once. Anchor damage is clearly not an issue there, although leisure boating in the Baltic, and in Sweden and Denmark particularly, is very popular. The map, right, shows the area covered by the study. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2424/full
13. Eelgrass and anchoring in Studland Bay
Studland Bay has been a popular and well-used anchorage for decades. It has also been closely studied, and the evidence shows healthy eelgrass beds which have been steadily expanding.
A study carried out by Seastar Survey Ltd (http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/media/5290/Seastar %20survey%20Studland%20Bay%20second%20seagrass%20monitoring%20report.pdf ) conducted methodical dived surveys in the central anchoring area and in October 2011, that area was found to have dense eelgrass at 55% coverage with an average shoot density of 208 shoots per sq metre, which the report said was “typical for the wider Weymouth and Portland area”. Full details of the observations are given in the Dive Logs in the Appendix of that report.
An historic series of aerial images of Studland Bay covering the years 1972, 1985, 1990, 1997, 2008 and 2011 may be found here (http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Aerial-1972-2011.pdf ). They show that, far from declining, the eelgrass beds in the Bay have greatly expanded over that period, and gaps in the beds filled in with new growth, although leisure vessels have been anchoring there throughout the period. New growth is moving inshore at a rate of 2 metres a year. The Seastar Survey report (above) provides ground-truthing for the central part of the 2011 image, and the inshore fringe of vegetation is known to be eelgrass from reports from divers and by observation at low tide.
These images also show that the mooring scars have not been expanding, indeed in 1985 there was little or no eelgrass in the moorings area – it has moved in since.
4. How is eelgrass so robust against the potential effects of anchors?
A clear picture is emerging to explain why eelgrass can thrive in the presence of anchoring. Firstly it is robust against physical damage – see our article http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Eelgrass- Raking-Study.pdf – and also shows great powers of recovery or resilience – see our article http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Eelgrass-Resilience-and-Resistance.pdf .
The first article describes a paper by Boese (2002) in which patches of eelgrass were raked (the rake had 20 cm tines) in a way which simulated raking for clams, which is a reasonable analogy for the action of an anchor digging in. 100 x 1sq m plots were used, of which 50 were treated and 50 served as control (untreated) plots. This was done three times, with four weeks between each treatment. Two weeks after the last treatment, the treated plots were indistinguishable from the control plots in all measured characteristics, i.e. such damage as had occurred had repaired within two weeks.
The second article cites 12 published papers which show that eelgrass can recover from substantial small-scale (up to 4 sq m) physical disturbance within 2 years, and often, in the case of smaller areas, one year. This would normally be considered rapid recovery, or high resilience.
The next consideration is how much of an eelgrass bed could be subject to anchor disturbance in the course of a boating season, and it turns out that the great majority of the seabed will remain undisturbed. The calculations are explained at http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/anchoring- density.pdf and it turns out that using estimates for Studland Bay we expect that less than 1% of the seabed in the anchoring area as a whole will be impacted by anchors during a boating season. Further, it is straightforward to estimate a general “closest approach” case which suggests that the maximum possible area impacted, given normal anchoring good practice, will be around 1.6%.
So the theoretical explanation of the observed lack of damage, and indeed in the case of Studland Bay the ongoing expansion of the eelgrass beds in the presence of ongoing anchoring, is given by an inherent resistance of eelgrass to physical damage, a high resilience or rapid recovery when damage does occur, and a small percentage area impacted anyway. Any damage sustained by this small area is thus rapidly repaired.
5. The “evidence” advanced to show eelgrass vulnerability
So far, this overview has been concerned with real evidence, drawn mainly from the scientific literature. We now turn to the arguments advanced by those who have argued that anchors kill eelgrass. The “anchors kill” narrative, which is devoid of actual direct evidence, appears to be based on analogy, speculation and fabrication. We shall point out the defective nature of each of the three strands of the narrative.
5.1 Posidonia oceanica: the wrong type of seagrass
Reports of anchor damage to the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica were interpreted as showing that the entirely different seagrass (from a different plant family) Zostera marina, or eelgrass, must be similarly vulnerable.
Those who make this claim appear not to have read the excellent primer on European seagrasses: European seagrasses: an introduction to monitoring and management , ed. J Borum, CM Duarte, D Krause-Jensen and TM Greve (2004). (http://www.seagrasses.org/handbook/european_seagrasses_high.pdf ) On p.13 the authors state the horizontal rhizome elongation rate for P. Oceanica to be just 2 cm/yr, as against 26 cm/yr for Z. Marina. On p.38 they describe recovery of an area of a P. oceanica meadow in France which was destroyed by a bomb in WW2: growth into the devastated area from the surviving meadow has been proceeding at just 3.4 cm a year. In contrast, the shoreward expansion of the eelgrass meadow in Studland Bay, as explained above, has been proceeding at 2000 cm a year.
With such incredible differences there is no way in which P. Oceanica can serve as a model relevant to eelgrass. Further differences are described in the European seagrasses book, and a comparison table of certain properties is given at http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Workshop_presentation7.pdf (page 8).
5.2 The “rhizome mat” speculation
The “anchors kill” narrative suggests that eelgrass beds are stabilised by a coherent “mat” of rhizomes, although the author is not aware of any description of such a mat in the literature for eelgrass. P. Oceanica on the other hand does form an interlocking 3-dimensional rhizome structure, so perhaps this is another case of mistaken identity. Anyway, the speculation goes that if the integrity of the “mat” is breached, it all breaks down. The paper by Collins et al (2010) (section2 above) speculates that wave action can then erode the seabed away in the exposed areas, causing a “scar” to expand.
Well, the paper by Boese (2002) (section 4 above) states that some rhizomes were removed by the raking treatment – yet the eelgrass was fully recovered within 2 weeks. Removal of some of the rhizomes caused no problem in that case. The historical aerial photograph series (section 3 above) does not show growth of the fixed mooring scars over the years, so scar expansion is not supported by that evidence from Studland Bay.
Another study by Boese (2009) in which all eelgrass including rhizomes was removed from 2m x 2m plots within a bed showed significant regrowth within 12 months round the edges of the plot, and regrowth over the whole plot within 2 years, and a similar study by Ruesink et al (2012) showed recovery over the whole 2x2m plot in 2 years. In these cases the rhizomes were completely removed, yet full recovery took place fairly rapidly. (Details at http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Eelgrass-Resilience-and-Resistance.pdf pp 4 – 6 ). So recovery can even occur in the complete absence of rhizomes in the affected area (it proceeds by lateral growth from adjoining healthy plants).
5.3 The MB0102 Matrix fabrication
To help in assessing sensitivities of features to particular pressures in the MCZ process, a “sensitivity matrix” of hundreds of feature/pressure combinations was commissioned by Defra. The particular combination which concerns us is the sensitivity assessment of the seagrass beds habitat to the pressure “Shallow abrasion/penetration: damage to seabed surface and penetration”, and the following comments are not directed at any other assessment.
This assessment asserted that eelgrass was “highly sensitive” to physical abrasion and surface penetration, that it has No resistance and Very Low resilience to the pressure.
This assessment is a small part of a 970 page document, and clarifying how it was arrived at took a degree of forensic analysis. The results were truly shocking, for despite the science-y sounding gift wrapping of the title (MB0102 Sensitivity Matrix), the box was, scientifically speaking, empty.
• No evidence was presented • No reasons were given • The assessment was by “expert opinion” • The experts were not identified, despite a request by the current author • The actual expertise of the “experts” (eg how many papers written on eelgrass) is
• Their opinion is contrary to an existing MarLin assessment
• The assessment is flatly contradicted by a large number of published scientific papers worldwide
A detailed critique and rebuttal of this assessment, with supporting evidence from the published literature, is published at http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Commentary-on-MB0102.pdf
Our view is that this assessment is not evidence at all, it is sheer fabrication, and as such is quite unsuitable for informing public policy. Sadly, we understand from Natural England that they still intend to use the assessment “to inform management measures”. If it is used for this or as “evidence” of eelgrass vulnerability the Boat Owners' Response Group will continue to expose it for the nonsense which it is.
The document containing (deep within its depths) this assessment may be found at
http://sciencesearch.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx? Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&Completed=0&ProjectID=16368 then select MB0102 – Report No. 22: Task 3
There appear to be no studies showing significant leisure boat anchor damage to eelgrass in the worldwide scientific literature for eelgrass (Zostera marina). Local evidence for Studland Bay shows healthy and expanding eelgrass beds despite ongoing anchoring for decades. The likely explanation is that only a small fraction of the seabed is directly impacted by anchors each year, and that eelgrass is robust against physical disturbance, having strong vegetative powers of recovery (high resilience) – a factor consistently overlooked by the “anchors kill” brigade. Further, such evidence as has been produced by the “anchors kill” faction is readily discredited and appears to be based on false analogy, speculation and fabrication. In our view, leisure boat anchoring as practised in the UK is a sustainable activity in the presence of eelgrass beds.
(No list of references is given here, they are all accessible through the links within the text. This article is published at http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/Evidence-overview-Sept14.pdf ).
1.The Studland Bay Preservation Association was formed a few years ago and stands for leaving the Bay free of unnecessary regulation and free for all to enjoy their recreational pursuits. If regulation of any activities, based on sound evidence, is found to be necessary then we would of course go along with it. I ended the last MMO meeting by rather angrily pointing out that we had not discussed recreation at all and that recreation was the most important activity in Studland Bay. There was no time left to expand on my outburst. I now have the opportunity to say a bit about recreation and give SBPA’s viewpoint on the whole MCZ process to date.
2.Recreation. The well known activities of Boating, Kayaking, fishing – hobby and commercial, water skiing, jetskis, swimming, snorkelling, diving etc all take place in Studland bay. Take boating for example. There are some 6000 boats in the various marinas of Poole harbour and 1000 registered fishing boats. Many boats like to visit Studland bay- particularly the Southern bay because of its sheltered location and scenery. It is one of the busiest pleasure craft anchorages on the South coast and has been for many years. In Studland the local Pub, cafes, shop, restaurants, B&Bs and hotels all rely on these visiting boats. Marinas, chandlers etc in Poole depend on it. The Marine leisure sector is a significant factor in coastal economies. It earns over 3 billion a year and employs 34,000 people. Sunseeker of Poole a major contributor to the South coast leisure boating industry uses Studland Bay. The recreational activities are all part of the huge tourist industry on which the coastal communities depend. The recreational activity in the Bay must be equal to places like Torquay, Brighton and Blackpool. Do we really want to reduce this important industry by management restrictions? I would suggest we need to sustain the increase in growth in recreational activities not limit it by restricting growth.
3. MCZ status for Studland Bay? We all realise that the bay has considerable, healthy and expanding eelgrass beds and that this is a wonderful habitat for a variety of marine life. Because of this it is right that the Bay should be considered for MCZ status but this decision will be made later by the Government after the public consultation. Hopefully the huge Socio economic factors will come into play in the next few months and it will be realised that the Bay is not an automatic choice for MCZ status. We have studied the pros and cons and feel it would be unwise to select Studland bay as an MCZ due to its’ high recreational usage. MCZ status will inevitably mean the curtailment of some recreational pursuits and encourage the ongoing disagreement between career conservationists and users of the bay. The NE final report to Defra states that Studland Bay is only at high risk because it contains features (Eelgrass and Seahorses)which are subject to one or more pressures causing damage or deterioration (anchoring and mooring damage). This statement by NE is untrue and we strongly object as we don’t believe Recovery is required. We will of course be accused of “not in my back yard” but there are plenty of other similar, less used areas of eelgrass which could be designated as MCZs to allow the Government to achieve its goal of a network of interlinking MPAs. Incidentally the best maps of eelgrass distribution along the South coast I’ve seen are produced by SIFCA who have done their own research into eelgrass distribution.
4. MCZ Process to date. It is increasingly clear to us that Natural England decided at the start of the Finding Sanctuary process that Studland bay should be an MCZ. Their staff influenced the Finding Sanctuary process on what to recommend, accepted the recommendations on the Scientific Advisory panel and ensured their final report to DEFRA supports the earlier made decision that Studland bay should be made an MCZ. The NE final report recommends that the bay should be an early designated MCZ because the eelgrass beds are subject to Anchoring and Mooring damage and need to recover. Unfortunately NE have failed to include the Seastar Survey results in their report so the report now before Defra is a misrepresentation of the facts and was out of date before it was signed off. We are suspicious and suggest that Seastar’s findings were deliberately brushed aside until it was too late to include them in the NE report. The findings of the Seastar have far wider implications concerning anchoring restrictions in other heavily used anchorages along the south coast particularly the IOW.
The Conservation objectives for Studland are yet to be decided. We understand will be decided by MMO after designation of MCZs by the Government. We at this stage of the proceedings can’t see the need for any conservation objectives except maintain the current condition of the eelgrass beds which are generally healthy and expanding. Studland Bay does not deserve ‘ Recover’ status. No consideration has yet been given to the important Recreational activities in the Bay. So now I will turn to our views on the topical issues in the MCZ process.
5. Anchoring damage. Anchors may cause slight superficial damage but this is quickly repaired. The Seastar survey Report clearly states that “there is no consistent evidence of boat anchoring impacting the eelgrass habitat”. Anchoring has been intensive in the Bay for the last 50 years and still the eelgrass continues to increase and be reasonably healthy.
6. Mooring damage. Yes this occurs around some moorings which are now in the eelgrass beds. 51 moorings are registered with MMO, 30 were up and running at the last count but only about 20 of these are actually in the eelgrass beds. Some of these do cause scouring but it is static damage and involves a tiny fraction of the total eelgrass area- less than half an acre. The eelgrass has enveloped the area of some moorings. When they were put in 30 -40 years ago there was no eelgrass there. New photos produced in the MAIA report show this to be the case. Fear of fragmentation in the Moorings area is unfounded as over the last 50 years core density and stability has increased. The idea of additional moorings to those already in situ in the form of EFMs could be pursued but a trial will be necessary to see if they are viable. EFMs are costly and the maintenance charges will trigger fees for mooring which in turn will mean boats and crews to collect mooring fees. Who is going to finance that?
7. Species . The 3 species- Seahorse, Undulate Ray and Native oyster seem to have been added in to “beef up the dossier” on why Studland should become an MCZ. The facts are that Seahorses are found all around the coast of England and Wales not only in Studland. They must breed in those locations to support their widespread distribution. There is no such thing as a resident breeding population in Studland bay. They are summer visitors and there is no evidence yet that the same seahorses return each year. Undulate Rays are widespread but particularly along the South coast and spawn in most bays. Native oyster ..now I think it is accepted that they do not feature in Studland Bay.
8. Eelgrass. The key factor in the whole MCZ process. The beds are increasing year on year. And there are at least 90 hectares of dense eelgrass and about 60 hectares of sparse bed- 150 hectares in all. The eelgrass beds as reported in MAIA are subject to storm and wave damage, disease, fertiliser run off, sedimentation etc but inspite of this are reasonably healthy and expanding over the Bay. The superficial damage caused by anchoring and half an acre of mooring damage is insignificant. We say leave the eelgrass as it is. Having said that we do believe that commercial bottom dragnet trawling should be banned. This we believe is in hand under fisheries voluntary or enforced legislation. It does not require MCZ cover.
So we object to the false reasoning behind NE’s recommendation for Studland to be an MCZ. We do not see the need for regulation and some sort of costly bureaucratic management system. The cost of enforcing unnecessary regulation is huge and is unlikely to succeed. We have seen over the years the flouting of the 5 Knot marker regulations because there is little or no enforcement of the local byelaw. This is an indication of how difficult it is to enforce regulations at sea.
9. Our local knowledge to date has been, in the main, ignored although now with the publication of Seastar and MAIA reports there are signs that the tide is turning as more facts and evidence emerges. We are grateful to MMO for including us in the MCZ process but we suggest that there are far more important issues that should be dealt with in Studland Bay. In brief the spread of Japanese weed which is smothering the eelgrass beds along the Bay’s Southern shore , secondly the spread of the Manilla clam into the Bay from Poole harbour. SIFCA legislation will hopefully prevent the clammers from Poole harbour arriving to rip out the seabed in their lucrative dredging for clams. Finally the rocks off Redend point (Blind rock and the 3 Sisters) need marking for the safety of pleasure craft.
To finish we believe that Eelgrass, Species and Full on recreational activities should continue as at present without further regulation. Leave the Bay as it is free for all to enjoy. The bay is quite capable of managing itself as it has done for centuries. Finally we recommend that any future Steering group meetings on conservation objectives should include a representative from Recreation.
Nicholas Warner (SBPA) 26 Nov 12
4th August 2012
The results of the Seastar Study
The independent scientific study entitled ‘Survey and monitoring of seagrass beds at Studland Bay, Dorset’, commissioned by The Crown Estate and Natural England and undertaken by Seastar Survey, has now reported. The study concludes that there is no consistent evidence of boat anchoring impacting the seagrass habitat at Studland Bay, but points out that there is an increased difference in seagrass health between the two study areas and therefore recommends that further monitoring is required.
When the study was commissioned it was hoped that it could provide scientific evidence to inform the debate and assist future management. Monitoring was carried out at two sites within the Bay in order to assess what happens to seagrass when anchoring is controlled, compared to areas where anchoring continues. The study was overseen by a steering group comprising representatives of The Crown Estate, Natural England, Royal Yachting Association and the Chair of the Studland Seagrass and Seahorse Study Group (Dorset Wildlife Trust), and an independent review was carried out by Project Seahorse.
The study took place over two years, with an option to extend it to a further year. The Crown Estate and Natural England have decided not to take up the option of funding an additional year of survey work. The voluntary no-anchor zone is no longer required for the purposes of this study therefore it will be removed as soon as possible, as stipulated as a condition of the original marine consent.
Since the study began, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has been established and given powers to regulate the marine environment and consider any management action which may be needed in Studland. The study is being provided to the MMO to assist in its on-going work.
The Crown Estate agreed to provide funding for the study via our marine stewardship programme to help quantify any possible impacts of anchoring on seagrass health and associated marine life, and work with residents, local yacht clubs, environmental groups and other interested parties to help understand the issues. Although the study has ended, we will, nevertheless, continue to play our part, as landowner, in the discussions going forward. For example, we also commissioned a high-level viability appraisal regarding the potential to introduce dedicated eco-moorings in Studland Bay, available at http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/media/200353/studland_bay_visitor_mooring_viability_appraisal.pdf
Posted on 21st August 2012
Natural England (NE)have recommended in their final report to Defra that Studland Bay should become an Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). The main reason being that the extensive Eelgrass beds are an important habitat for marine life.
NE have also said that anchor damage to the Eelgrass beds is extensive and needs
to be regulated. This of course is untrue and is confirmed by The Seastar Survey report which was published recently. NE have ignored these findings which dramatically shows their advice to Defra on Eelgrass is unsound. We (SBPA) along with BORG (Boat Owners Response Group) have complained to Defra about the failings of the NE Report. BORG have issued a press release. See below.
Whatever the outcome Studland Bay's Eelgrass beds will receive protection from bottom/drag net trawling through regulations imposed by the Fisheries Authorities. Whether or not the Bay becomes an MCZ is yet to be decided. We are all
conservaionists but to choose one of the main recreational areas on the South coast and the most heavily used anchorage seems unwise. There are other Eelgrass areas which could be nominated for MCZ status. This would allow the Government
to achieve it's requirement for a series of interlinking marine protected areas.SBPA (Studland Bay Preservation Association
21st August 2012
BORG and the Seastar Survey
We were not surprised to read the results of the Seastar Survey in Studland. It provides an important data and information record on the ecology of Studland Bay, which until now has been missing from the debate.
BORG along with RYA and SBPA have maintained throughout that anchoring was only causing marginal damage to the Eelgrass Beds in the bay. Simple observation of what is there shows that after 60 years as the UK's most important and heavily used sea anchorage, the Eelgrass not only remains in pretty good condition, but is almost certainly expanding its area. Natural England's Final Report to the Government states quite categorically that Eelgrass is at high risk of damage from human activity and lists places like Studland and Osborne Bays as high priority for protection under the MCZ scheme to prevent further damage.
We asked Natural England why their report suggests the Eelgrass is at such risk, when the Seastar Report says otherwise: they told us Seastar had not been published when they came to their own deadline, so they could not include it.
Last winter BORG published two important Reports by yachtsman Dr Michael Simons PhD, who had been looking in to the whole issue of anchor damage in eelgrass. A panel of experts at Natural England had decided that because usually Seagrasses are slow growing and quite vulnerable, the Eelgrass beds in places like Studland Bay must also be at serious risk from anchoring activity. This appeared to be confirmed by a study done by Dr Collins of Southampton university, who drew comparisons between Studland and Seagrass studies in the Mediterranean.
Dr Simons noticed that Studland's eelgrass was a different variety to the Mediterranean species. Many reports of the Studland variety were found, all of which without exception described it as fast growing, recovering rapidly from natural or human damage: An American study deliberately cut large test squares in an eelgrass bed. They recovered within a very short space of time. Others reported similar rapid recovery without exception from both natural and artificial damage. An eelgrass bed wiped out by an algal Red Tide in Japan for example, re-established itself and recovered fully within a matter of a few years
So it was no surprise to us that the Seastar report confirmed that the small amount of damage that occurs when anchors are dropped in eelgrass makes no significant difference to it.
Eelgrass is a key marine species supporting a wide range of marine wildlife, and it is right that it should receive protection status, but we have a growing dossier of scientific reports which provides clear evidence that anchoring is not a threat to this particular species. There is no need to limit or prevent leisure boats from anchoring in places like Studland and Osborne Bay, and doing so will have at best a marginal affect on the ecology of these places.
We welcome the Seastar Survey with its clear and unequivocal evidence that our activities as boat owners are not harming the environment in Studland and elsewhere.
The next step is that MMO are being asked to examine the 'new' evidence at the next Studland Workshop meeting in the autumn, and to draw a 'consensus of opinion' on it to pass to DEFRA before the Public Consultation period next winter. Borg will be there, and Dr Simons has been invited to join us.
The various reports referred to can be found on our website: http://boatownersresponse.org.uk/
Update on the proposed MCZ in Studland Bay from BORG
Predictably round Christmas, things have gone fairly quiet. However there is much discussion going on behind the scenes, and increasingly RYA, Studlanders and BORG are looking to challenge the assumptions, and lack of any real data or evidence behind some of the recommendations. Although there is not much we can report on, Emails have been buzzing between us and the official conservation groups and MMO as we work towards challenging some of the claims in the reports.The Chancellor recently made a statement questioning the cost of the green and conservation issues, and many of us believe this could prpofoundly affect what actually happens in the next couple of years. There will be no point in a detailed scheme being proposed if lack of funding means it cannot be implemented and enforced. Untested law of that kind could be 're-interpreted later on' and cause serious difficulties.
Studlanders have been hard at work persuading some of the 'experts' to come and actually see for themselves. They report that some of these experts are seriously revising their points of view after seeing what is there!
Elsewhere we are mainly waiting for the 'Impact Assessments' which are to go with the recommendations. The IA's look at the economic and social impacts of creating each MCZ area, and are extremely complex.
The first round from Balanced Seas economists, puts a big question mark once again over the fate of Newtown River and Osborne Bay in the Solent, both of which are earmarked for heavily restrictive management protocols. Final reports are yet to be published, but there is growing concern that the Studland fiasco will be repeated in these locations, and RYA and we are working hard to try to minimize the impact that designation could bring to these key anchorages.
The situation up the East Coast is becoming a little more clear, with two or three Reference areas which do not appear to impinge much on our activities except in the Stour where early reports indicate the possible closure of a favoured anchorage - more as it becomes available. Irish Sea affairs are very quiet at present, and I will report as information becomes available.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"PARSON IN PURBECK"
The other day, I happened to come across this little booklet written by Canon Douglas O'Hanlon recounting his life from his Biggin Hill days as RAF Chaplain, through to his five years as rector of the Church of Langton Matravers and later his ten years from 1972 as rector of St. Nicholas church, Studland. So many newcomers have arrived in Studland since it was published I feel they may well be interested to peruse this charming story. Canon O'Hanlon tells not only of his life, together with Katherine, ("one of the first women to qualify as a pilot" who was also an actress who had performed in T.S. Elliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" at Canterbury and in London), but gives us fascinating information on the intricate filigree cross, originating from Ethiopia, that has preceded the Choir into the church for many years, long before Emperor Haile Selassie, from his exile in Bath, gave his permission for it to remain at Studland in perpetuity.Noone knows how it came to be in Studland in the first place but the fact that Canon O'Hanlon had spent two years as a lay person in Abyssinia in the 1930's during which time he had met the Empress and her daughter, Princess Tsahai, seems to be a strange coincidence Canon O'Hanlon recounts, movingly how, before his induction as Rector, he obtained permission to say the Lord's Prayer in Amharic "to make the Cross feel more comfortable in exile". It seems that the cross was taken from Magdala, Abyssinia, by General Napier in 1868 who, to pay for his army, had stolen many church treasures. They also took a human trophy, a little orphan boy called Martin. Trained as a doctor Martin served in India, was recalled by Haile Selassie to be governor of a province and it was there "in his palace" that Canon O'Hanlon started to learn Amharic and to "get some aquaintance with Ethiopic". "Martin" later became Ethiopian Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London while Princess Tsahai, in 1939, became a nurse at Guy's Hospital which was evacuated to Westerham, Kent, close to Biggin Hill, where of course she visited the O'Hanlons....
Churchwarden Fay Taylor tells me that she has a number of copies of "Parson in Purbeck" that she would be happy to give away to anyone interested. She can be reached on 450 421. Joan Taylor
Elli MacDonald who is working on the Living with a Changing Coast project, based with the National Trust gave an informative talk with slides at the Village Hall Coffee morning on Thursday 21st February concerning coastal erosion, which is taking place in several sights around our shores including Poole Harbour, Swanage and Studland. She is gathering evidence by asking people who have known the coast here for some time, to help with her assessment, and requests that those who live here help her by collecting a survey form from Andy and Jackie in Studland Stores, filling it in and returning it; for her to collect in two weeks time. Please add any questions or stories you may have to the comments section. For those on email Please contact Toni Ives email@example.com and she will send out an attachment to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org …
Soon, as the seawater begins to warm, our treasured Seahorses will start arriving in Studland Bay. Both species are of course found all around the coast of England and Wales. They breed in most coastal areas, which accounts for their widespread distribution. These summer visitors to our shores (they are only in The Bay between late March and September) and have been the subject of much media hype particularly concerning Studland Bay and whether or not The Bay should become a Marine Conservation Zone(MCZ). Fortunately for the thousands of people who enjoy their Recreational pursuits in Studland, the Bay has not been selected by The Government for MCZ status.
Recreational pursuits would be seriously curtailed if The Bay became an MCZ. What is sad is that the numbers of Seahorses seen each year is getting less.
Data produced by The Seahorse Trust shows this decline in numbers. The figures vary, but about 50 sightings in 2008 was down to 11 last year. However the
difference between sightings and individual Seahorses is seldom made clear. Cold winters may have something to do with this decline in numbers but another reason
could be that the Seahorses have been pestered in the eelgrass beds by Divers. Photographing, handling and tagging by Divers, who come in increasing numbers,
have driven the Seahorses away. Groups of 10 or so Divers are often seen being lectured to by The Seahorse Trust and then let loose in search of Seahorses. The Tagging project by Seahorse Trust seems to have been a failure as no tagged seahorse has been seen a second year running. The Seahorse Trust are now switching to photo identity to see whether or not the same Seahorses return to The Bay after wintering in deeper waters outside The Bay.
Hopefully the numbers of Divers searching for Seahorses will lessen in future and the number of Seahorses visiting The Bay will pick up again.
Many will have read that inspite of Natural England's recommendations Studland Bay has NOT been selected by Defra for nomination as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)in 2013. Defra has recognised the huge Recreational usage of The Bay. The Socio Economic factors do not justify the marginal conservation gains that would be achieved if The Bay was to become an MCZ. This is good news for all of us who have been trying to keep The Bay free of unnecessary and costly regulations.
The Survey carried out in Studland a few years ago showed that many of us wanted regulations to prevent ' seabed dragnet trawling' as this was damaging the Eelgrass beds. This method of fishing is now to be controlled by Southern Inshore Fisheries' legislation. Non MCZ status does not affect this matter.
To read more about the case presented by Studland Bay Preservation Association (SBPA) to the Marine Management Organisation in Poole on 26th November look at Studland Parish Magazine website (News and Views). www.studlandbaydorset.co.uk
Further background information can be found on Boat Owners Response Group (BORG) website:
The excellent BORG website above gives details on how Natural England's case for making the Bay an MCZ was unsound. Also there is an interesting case study on Seahorses and how they actually like boats, moorings and anchor chains etc.
The Seahorse issue (which is where it all started) has turned out to be a 'Red Herring'!
The programme for the rest of 2013 is as follows, all activities are at the Village Hall:
This site has NOT been recommended for designation in the Government consultation for the first tranche of MCZs, however, Defra welcome comments on all MCZs being considered.
This rMCZ is recommended to protect seagrass and seahorses with the potential for restrictions on anchoring and mooring. Studland Bay is not recommended for designation in the first tranche because there is still uncertainty as to whether the advantages are sufficient to justify the socio-economic implications.
Studland Bay is an important anchorage providing shelter from inclement weather to boaters travelling along the south coast. There are very few alternative sites between Portsmouth and Weymouth that offer the same levels of protection, particularly from south-westerly winds. The RYA would object to any blanket restrictions on mooring and anchoring within the Studland Bay rMCZ. In our view it is not clear at this time that sufficient scientific evidence exists to support such restrictions in this location. Furthermore, to ban anchoring in this location has the potential to increase the risks to mariners as they may be forced to seek alternative refuge further down the coast. It is essential that Studland can continue to function as a safe haven for any vessel seeking shelter from difficult weather conditions.
The RYA is tentatively supportive of proposals to replace traditional mooring systems with eco-friendly moorings (EFMs) to minimise the potential for impact on sensitive seafloor habitats. Indeed the RYA is an active contributor to a number of small-scale projects around the UK investigating the viability and operational functionality of EFMs. It is our understanding however that at this time knowledge of the practicalities of deploying EFMs is extremely limited in UK waters, particularly in terms of vessel safety. Given the potential safety implications of using EFMs in the absence of greater understanding, the RYA must object to any mandatory measures which seek to ban traditional mooring systems.
Recreational boaters visiting Studland Bay contribute considerably to the local economy. Significant restrictions on boating activity within the Bay are likely to result in the loss of some of this income. It is essential that the economic impacts on the coastal community are taken into consideration when options for management
Rota of sides persons and Clergy for January 2013 at St Nicholas Church. If unavailable on the day of the service, please arrange for someone to cover for you.
Rota of sides persons and Clergy for January 2013 at St Nicholas Church. If unavailable on the day of the service, please arrange for someone to cover for you
Studland Parish Plan1 The Forward planning Group of the Studland Parish Council has met and recommends that the following actions be taken foreword within the next twelve months. Strategy and management plan for trees Local Neighbourhood watch Scheme Tourist Guide Traffic management Linkage of footpaths and footways Parking Vehicle size and restriction-Corfe Road Ferry charges Publicising the use of local PO facilities These actions are to be planned with councillors and residents who will work on the issues and report back accordingly to the Studland Parish Council; . 2.It is recognised that much has been achieved to date by the plan eg earlier bus service to Swanage, improved facilities in the village playing field, establishment of an employer group, new arrangement from the Studland Beach users Group: use of Speed Indicator Devices, prohibition of overnight parking at the Viewpoint on the road to Corfe Castle 3. Certain actions from the Plan are ongoing e.g. residents access to local business leisure facilities, pedestrian crossing investigation. 4. During the last year there has been formed a local branch of the Tenants Association of the National Trust. 5. The plan is gradually being implemented via Studland Parish Council. In order to move forward residents will be urged to volunteer for the work on the actions as per 1. Residents will be urged to contact a councillor. Or the Parish Clerk if they are able to contribute to any of the identified actions. The extent to which residents and councillors participate in the work associated with the actions of the Plan will in itself be a measure of the success of the plan. Please play your part.
Studland Village Telephone Box
The council have received a letter from BT regarding the phone box in the village on Ferry Road (opposite the turning into Beach Road). It has been offered to the council for £1. BT would then remove the phone and it would be up to the council to maintain it. During the last 12 months 41 calls were made from the Phone box, as most people nowadays use mobiles. I would be glad to .hear your comments on this matter.
Sandra Gamage (Parish Clerk)
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