Have your say on boats mooring in Studland seahorse habitat

Views are being sought on how best boats can continue to visit Studland Bay without affecting the seagrass habitat of the local seahorse population.

Ecologists say that when a boat drops a traditional anchor, the chain can scour the seabed damaging the seagrass. Also as the anchor is lifted it can uproot the vegetation.

Seahorse trust
Seahorse trust

Environmentalists say that the metal chains of the traditional moorings damage the seagrass

Voluntary ban on boats dropping anchor

Studland Bay was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in 2019, partly to protect the rare seahorses. As part of the strategy, a voluntary ban on boats dropping anchor within the southern end of Studland Bay was introduced from June 2022.

Ten eco-moorings were also installed off South Beach in Studland in 2021 to provide a better alternative to dropping anchor. Unlike traditional moorings and anchors, these don’t have metal chains that drag along the seabed.

Now the Studland Bay Marine Partnership, which includes boat owners, environment groups, scientists and landowners, is asking what next it should do. In order to get everyone’s views it’s hoping people will fill out its short survey.

Boats in Studland Bay
Boats in Studland Bay

Despite a voluntary no anchor zone in place since the beginning of June 2022, these boats continue to visit the area

Future strategy

The plan is to come up with a future strategy that will be supported by boat owners, local residents and environmentalists.

Some in the boating community dispute that anchoring in the seagrass causes significant damage and say there isn’t enough evidence to ban boats dropping anchor.

A seafloor survey of seagrass is being conducted over summer 2022 in Studland Bay by a team from the University of Southampton to help advise on a solution from a scientific perspective.

Eco moorings installation
Ross Young
Eco moorings installation
Ross Young

One of the 10 eco-moorings installed in Studland Bay by the Seahorse Trust and Boatfolk

Who will pay?

While many support the use of eco-moorings, the question is who will pay for them?

The current eco-moorings were installed by the company Boatfolk and the Seahorse Trust, but with a proposal to increase the number to 100, more funding will need to be sourced.

There is also a debate about how close to the shore they should be located.

Studland Bay map of seagrass and possible eco-mooring areas

Map of the southern end of Studland Bay with the voluntary no anchor zone marked out by red dotted line. The darker blue indicates the seagrass area; the blue shaded area is the current Bankes Arms mooring area and the pink shaded area is the possible eco-mooring areas proposed by the company Boatfolk

Take part in the survey

  • More about the issue, as well as a second survey on the management strategy of the area, is on the Dorset Have Your Say website
  • The eco-mooring survey, to be completed by Friday 30th September 2022, is also on the website
Studland marine survey poster

Further information

A team from Dorset Coast Forum and the National Trust will be at Knoll Beach in Studland to chat to the public and let everyone know more about the proposed eco-moorings and the survey.

There will also be some seahorse activities for children and the chance to win a soft toy seahorse.

The sessions will be:
Monday 25th July 2022: 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm
Tuesday 26th July 2022: 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm
Friday 29th July 2022: 10 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 4 pm

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