The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has published a position statement on the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) proposals for Studland Bay in Dorset. The position has been developed by the RYA following meetings and correspondence with local clubs and the MMO.
The site was given the status of Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in 2019 due to its seagrass beds – a protected marine habitat and resident Long-snouted Seahorses, a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Due to its location and sheltered conditions, Studland Bay is also a popular anchorage for recreational boaters.
The RYA responded to a call for evidence from the MMO in 2020 when the organisation was seeking views on the draft Studland Bay MCZ marine management plans. Following the results of the consultation, the MMO concluded that restricting anchoring of boats would be the focus of engagement and that no further restrictions on other activities such as, snorkelling, would currently be implemented.
The RYA’s position statement recommends that all measures introduced by the MMO should be voluntary and should be supported by a thorough engagement plan that enables boat owners to understand and promote protection amongst their peer group.
The position statement also outlines two approaches recommended by the RYA:
- Firstly, the establishment of a mooring area that uses Advanced Mooring Systems that prevent damage to the seagrass;
- Secondly, the establishment of an anchoring area where recreational users can safely stop without damaging the seagrass beds.
Richard Hill, RYA Planning and Environment Officer, commented: “The RYA is fully committed to protecting our seabed habitats and recognises the need to put in place measures to better protect the marine ecosystem which recreational boaters enjoy. However, any mitigative measures that are introduced must not only be effective, but also appropriate to address the needs of the users of the area. Introducing anchoring restrictions without providing users alternative environmentally friendly moorings may do more harm than good.
“The RYA position statement outlines our main concern: that to resolve the conservation issues in Studland Bay will require a joint approach with the introduction of no-anchoring and anchoring areas alongside a sustainable mooring area which protects the seagrass beds. It is unfortunate that the MMO is only concentrating on the anchoring issue, whilst delaying the use of moorings until they have a strategy. The use of anchoring zones and moorings should be jointly developed to address the conservation issues, whilst enabling continued safe recreational boating. We have suggested recommendations that we feel are pragmatic and suitable for the Bay’s environmental importance, as well as the area’s popular recreational use.”
You can read the RYA’s full Studland Bay Consultation Position Statement here.
Five things sailors should know about seagrass, by the Ocean Conservation Trust