Marine partnership gets £186k to deliver Studland Bay conservation projects

Dorset Coast Forum engagement event at Studland Bay. Credit: Sara Parker, DCF

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: November 29, 2023 | Updated: 29th November 2023

The Studland Bay Marine Partnership has been awarded £186,000 from the Marine Management Organisation’s Fisheries and Seafood Scheme.

Studland Bay Marine Partnership is part of the Dorset Coast Forum (logo)

The funding will be used to support the conservation of Studland Bay’s marine ecosystems, which include the county’s most extensive seagrass meadow that offers a habitat for species such as the spiny seahorse and the endangered undulate ray.

It follows a successful bid from Dorset Council, and contributes to a larger £248,000 conservation project to support the site, including its wildlife and water users.

The project will see an additional 57 eco-moorings installed in the bay as well as continuing the partnership’s research and monitoring programme – all delivered by the Studland Bay Marine Partnership.

Formed in 2021 and made up of local stakeholders like conservation and boating groups, academics community groups and local businesses, the partnership’s goal is to protect nature in the Studland Bay area while also meeting the needs of water and boat users.

Funds from the award will also be used to complete the formulisation of the partnership, provide more information for boat users in the Studland and Poole harbour marina areas, and continue an engagement programme, led by the Dorset Coast Forum, throughout 2024 and beyond.

David Brown, Chair of the Studland Bay Marine Partnership (SBMP), said: “This is fantastic news for residents, visitors, boaters, and the environment!

“Receiving this funding supports the Studland Bay Marine Partnership to continue the important work of conserving and preserving Studland Bay for future generations to enjoy.

“Hundreds of waterborne visitors to Studland Bay are already taking a pro-active approach to conservation by using the 31 eco-moorings already installed and we are delighted that we will now be able to install a further 57 in 2024.”

These activities will support the voluntary no anchor zone (VNAZ) already in place within in Studland Bay. The VNAZ was established in 2021 by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) with the support of the local community to protect the bay’s seagrass meadow.

Michelle Willis, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, MMO, said: “The Fisheries and Seafood Scheme has been designed specifically to support these types of innovative projects.

“In Studland Bay, the seagrass plays a vital role in the marine ecosystem, providing a safe nursery and breeding ground for range of marine wildlife, including rare species of Spiny Seahorse, pipefish and rays, as well as those of significant commercial value such as seabream, bass and flat fish.

“By supporting projects which will help to protect and recover Studland’s seagrass beds for the future we’re delivering on our commitment to protect our precious marine environment, support economic growth and enable sustainable marine development.’’

Funds for the project were secured as part of a bid submitted by Dorset Council on behalf of the partnership.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “Protecting our unique coastline and the habitats it supports is vitally important, which is why we are thrilled to hear we have been successful in securing funds to support conservation efforts in Studland Bay.

“The bay is not only important to our county’s wildlife, but also highly valued by our local communities, businesses, and water users. This funding will further help Studland Bay Marine Partnership in their efforts to manage the area in a way that is collaborative and sustainable.”

Dorset Coast Forum, a Dorset Council hosted partnership, will continue to lead on the community engagement of this marine conservation project.

The forum has already been working with partnership organisations throughout 2023 to raise awareness of the Voluntary No Anchor Zone and Studland’s precious marine habitats.

Future engagement events will continue to offer boaters and the public the opportunity to view the partnership’s display eco-mooring which featured on the BBC’s Springwatch programme earlier in the year.

Sara Parker, Dorset Coast Forum’s project officer, said: “Receiving this funding award offers the partnership a real opportunity to continue to develop our engagement activities and reach wider audiences.

“Preserving the natural beauty and health of the unique marine habitat beneath the water in the bay is what we are all working together to achieve. This is brilliant news for residents and visitors alike!”

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