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Breaking the chains for Studland seahorses

Breaking the chains - seahorse at Studland (Neil Garrick-Maidment)
Breaking the chains - seahorse at Studland (Neil Garrick-Maidment)

Twenty-one new eco-moorings have doubled the number installed at Studland Bay in Dorset to help safeguard its seagrass beds, which are home to two protected species of seahorse native to the UK.

The Studland Bay Marine Partnership (SBMP) says it has united the boating and conservation communities through the installation, which was featured recently on BBC TV’s Springwatch. The seagrass acts as a nursery for many fish species, as well as making a contribution to carbon-capture.

The June installation adds to the 10 eco-moorings already positioned in 2021 and, with 12 existing moorings now converted into eco-moorings for private owners, a total of 43 have been installed in the bay.

Regular anchors can damage the seabed and seagrass meadows but eco-moorings save local boaters the trouble of having to drop their own anchors, says the SBMP. A helical screw anchor is secured to the seabed, with an elastic rode used to connect it to the buoy instead of the heavy chain that can scour the seagrass around it. 

In 2019 Studland Bay became a legally protected Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) to ensure that the seagrass, seahorses, subtidal sand and intertidal coarse sediment are kept in “favourable condition”.

Target is 100 eco-moorings

The latest installation followed the raising of £66,000 through a mixture of crowdfunding and donations from private individuals and corporate partners such as Sea Life and the Sea Life Trust, the Pig on the Beach, the National Trust, the Crown Estate and charities including Plastic Free North Devon. 

The SBMP hopes to install 100 of these eco-moorings (Dan Cutler / MMO)
The SBMP hopes to have 100 of these eco-moorings installed (Dan Cutler / MMO)

The SBMP is continuing its fundraising in the hope of being able to install a further 57 eco-moorings by 2024. Long-term, it hopes to take ownership and management responsibility for all eco-moorings, funded through daily mooring fees as well as private sponsorship.

“Since the beginning of this project, we’ve seen awareness and interest in protecting seahorses rise, with the public coming alive to the importance of this magical species,” said Seahorse Trust founder and executive director Neil Garrick-Maidment.

“This latest installation will allow more members of the public to make use of eco-moorings and advocate for their continued expansion locally but also further afield now that we’ve demonstrated the success of this project.”

”A few years ago, recreational boating and seagrass conservation appeared to be in conflict, but the SBMP has brought together conservationists, boaters, local communities and public authorities, and we have worked together fantastically,” said SBMP chair David Brown.

Also on Divernet: £66k raised to protect Studland seagrass, Eco-moorings can protect Studland's seahorses, Spiny pay-off from seagrass project, Police probe damage to star-dive Valentine tank

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