Working together to protect important marine habitats in Studland Bay
Published on 20 December, 2021

Recreational boaters are being asked to help protect precious seagrass habitats at Studland Bay, off the Dorset coast.

From 17 December 2021, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is introducing a phased voluntary approach for the management of anchoring in Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

This will give recreational boaters in Studland Bay time to explore alternatives to anchoring in sensitive areas of the MCZ – such as the use of advanced mooring systems. From 1 June 2022, the area will be increased to cover the majority of seagrass beds to form a permanent voluntary no anchor zone.

MMO consulted and engaged widely on the management of anchoring in the MCZ:

  • October 2020 – Following a draft assessment of the impacts of marine non-licensable activities on Studland Bay MCZ, MMO held a call for evidence. This was an informal consultation which sought views from stakeholders on the draft assessment and management options.
  • February 2021 – MMO announced that based on the draft assessment and call for evidence, management measures were required for anchoring due to impacts on the site, but further engagement was needed with the public to develop them.
  • March 2021 – Dorset Coast Forum facilitated two engagement events  to gather feedback from stakeholders on a set of draft anchoring management options presented by MMO. The first meeting was attended by 32 representatives from key stakeholder groups and the second meeting was attended by 370 members of the public.
  • September 2021 – MMO held a meeting with representatives from key stakeholder groups to announce the management approach.

Following the feedback from stakeholders, and advice from Natural England, MMO decided that the voluntary no-anchor zone would be put in place in the seagrass beds to reduce the damage caused by dropping and weighing anchors.

Michael Coyle, Director of Operations at MMO, said:

“Working together with the boating community on this voluntary approach will lead to better protection for the site and the important habitats and species in the Studland Bay MCZ.

The seagrass beds in the area are home to a protected species of seahorse and other wildlife as well as important fish stocks.

We recognise the importance of Studland Bay MCZ for recreational activities and have engaged with local interest groups, coastal forums, recreational boaters and scientific advisors to develop this plan to help protect the area from the impacts of anchoring.”

Studland Bay is very popular with boaters and the level of recreational activity, particularly anchoring activity within the seagrass beds in the MCZ, can result in damage to the seagrass when they anchors make contact with and dig into the seabed.

Links updated 2023:

Studland Bay MCZ 2021-2022

Seagrass & seahorse photo credit: © Neil Garrick-Maidment/The Seahorse Trust