Concerns have been expressed by members of the boat community who fear that massive water activity in Studland Bay may be tightly controlled or even banned to protect seahorses that live on the ocean floor.
The Marine Management Organization (MMO) is currently discussing proposals for managing a recently formed Marine Protected Area (MCZ) in Studland Bay.
Under consultation ending December 15, MMO states that it is seeking evidence and views on a proposed assessment of the “impact of marine unlicensed activities on the conservation objectives of the Studland Bay MCZ.”
Activities that do not require a marine license are currently described by MMO as activities that do not require a marine license, with the exception of fishing activities.
The consultation focuses on kayaking, windsurfing, dinghy, recreational diving, snorkeling, as well as engine-powered or non-engine-powered powerboats and sailing.
Thousands of people gather in Studland Bay each year, many of them windsurfers, kayakers, boaters and other watercraft users.
Many have been in conflict for years with environmentalists working to protect the endangered seahorses.
Linda Wood wrote to MMO: “We are a sailor country and we all want to grow our environment and national heritage, but the sea is for all of us to use and we need to balance it.
“Isn’t the welfare and mental health of thousands of people using Studland Bay more important than eelgrass and seahorses?
“In this terrifying year, after the blockade, we all experienced one of the greatest joys of sailing to Studland and spending the day in a safe mood.
“You need to know how many bays there are, with thousands of miles on the British coastline.
“Many of these bays are inaccessible to people and are not safe berths for boats, so we understand that Studland is unique and very important to the population when making this decision. please.
“But the mere suggestion that this could be a step forward in the region surprised many inhabitants.”
However, according to the Seahorse Trust charity Seahorses thrive in Studland Bay Blockade.
In the summer, the trust states that it found 16 seahorses in a single dive. This is the largest number since we started monitoring our site in 2008.
• Seahorse Trust requires special attention when visiting Studland Bay
Both the British native species, the spiny seahorse and the short snout, gained protected status in 2008 under wildlife and country law, following data collection and campaigns by the Seahorse Trust.
Studland Bay was officially designated as an MCZ on May 31, 2019, and its protected functions include the seagrass bed and the long-nosed seahorses that inhabit it.
The MMO evaluation proposal concludes as follows. Sailing with / without engine.
“Therefore, it is MMO’s current opinion that vulnerabilities to these activities may not meet the conservation goals for these features.
“Therefore, it may be necessary to manage unlicensed marine activities to assist in achieving MCZ conservation goals.
“The purpose of this request for evidence is to look for additional evidence and views to inform the proposed evaluation and associated management options.”