Locally most people recognise that conserving the seagrass habitat is essential, but it will be difficult to implement a Voluntary No Anchoring Zone (VNAZ) if there are no alternatives for boat users to use the bay. To address this, a partnership of stakeholders including conservation organisations, academics and boating organisations have come together forming the Studland Bay Marine Partnership to devise a solution that meet the needs of recreational boaters to continue to enjoy the bay and protect the seagrass habitat, by achieving these key outcomes:
This work has been funded by the Championing Coastal Coordination (3Cs) project which is an Environment Agency initiative with support from Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and the Association of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.
Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) Background
One of the main reasons that many people come to this beautiful part of Dorset is the sea. Protecting our coasts, and the species that live along them, is essential. Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) provide protected areas that not only benefit the myriad forms of life that live in, on, and next to, the sea, but also have a huge impact on the coastal communities of which we are very much a part. Studland Bay is home to seagrass beds which provide a number of vital ecological functions. Seagrass beds stabilise sediments, provide habitat for species such as commercially important fish and seahorses, and act as a sink for atmospheric carbon. It is also home to bass and endangered undulate rays. Long-snouted seahorses are a designated feature of the MCZ and a protected species.
The sheltered conditions of the bay not only provide protection for sensitive habitats and species but is highly valued by boat and water users, and local businesses as an attractive environment for tourism and recreation. Also, importantly providing a sheltered refuge for both local boat users and those travelling long distances.
Since the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) was established in May 2019, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) held a call for evidence seeking views on a draft Studland Bay MCZ marine non-licensable activity assessment and a range of management options. Feedback concluded that management measures would be developed for anchoring, due to the pressure it causes at current levels towards the designated features of the MCZ.
In March 2021, Dorset Coast Forum facilitated a formal engagement period to gain further input from stakeholders about three draft anchoring management options. A summary of the engagement can be found in the Studland Bay MCZ Engagement Feedback Report.
Voluntary No Anchoring Zone (VNAZ)
From December 2021, the MMO introduced a Voluntary No Anchoring Zone (VNAZ) (External link)in part of the bay currently used by recreational craft. The VNAZ has been expanded from 1 June 2022 (see the MMO’s Studland Bay MCZ Habitat Protection Strategy and website(External link) for more information). At all times, anchoring in emergency situations will still be permitted.
The MMO have indicated that a sustainable alternative to anchoring in the VNAZ could be achieved through the use of Advanced eco-Mooring Systems (AeMS) (External link)to protect the seagrass habitat whilst allowing continued use by recreational craft. The Studland Bay Marine Partnership is actively looking to encourage water enthusiasts and boat users to respect the seagrass by not anchoring at the known seagrass locations and use permitted moorings.
MMO Map of Voluntary No Anchoring Zone (VNAZ)
Studland Bay Marine Partnership Moorings Map for Consultation June 2022
What’s happening now and how to get involved?
At this stage Dorset Coast Forum are working with the partners and key stakeholders to draft a 10-year management strategy, a moorings plan and future governance options Studland Bay.
Partner and stakeholder workshops took place during January and February 2022 to draft these key management documents.
It is recognised the importance of having eco-moorings in place within the VNAZ, and the draft proposed documents are now being shared with the wider public during the Summer 2022.
Have Your Say!
The Studland Bay Marine Partnership are reaching out to the wider public to have their say on how the strategy and installations of the eco-moorings can be taken forward. Feedback from the survey relating to Eco-moorings and the survey relating to the draft strategy will be incorporated into the Studland Bay Marine Partnership management strategy for the group to take forward over the next 10 years.
Please take the time to read the proposed strategy and view the moorings plan (also above). The Studland Bay Marine Partnership want to represent everyone who uses and has an interest in Studland Bay.
Go to our Dorset Coast Have Your Say website to find out more and complete the surveys.
1. Eco-mooring Survey
2. Proposed Management Strategy Survey
Surveys will close on Friday 30 September 2022.