Special protection welcome

Thursday 13th September 2012

Undulate ray cpt Peter TinsleyUndulate ray cpt Peter Tinsley

Marine habitat off the Dorset coast is set to get greater protection.

Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon today announced that an area more than 330 square km is to be designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The area, located at Portland to Studland reefs, has been submitted by the Government to the European Commission.

The condition of the reefs is currently very good – testimony to the sensitive fishing methods used by the local inshore fishing community

Peter Tinsley, Living Seas Manager for Dorset Wildlife Trust, said:

"We are delighted by this long-awaited announcement.  This is official recognition of the high, indeed international, value of reef habitats on Dorset’s seabed and the site will make a significant contribution to the network of marine protected areas around the UK. 

“The importance of the site was initially highlighted by the work of hundreds of volunteer divers recording seabed species and habitats through Seasearch, which we coordinate in Dorset.  Subsequent detailed survey work, particularly our seabed mapping project, has confirmed the extent and quality of reef habitats between Portland and Studland. 

“The variety within this site is impressive – from extremely tide-swept hard-rock ledges and cliffs off Portland and St Albans Head, with brightly coloured sponges and corals, to low-lying shale ledges, riddled with boring piddocks or carpeted with brittlestars.  Depths range from the seaweed-rich shallow waters to deep scoured holes, over 100m deep, off Portland Bill.

“The condition of the reefs is currently very good – testimony to the sensitive fishing methods used by the local inshore fishing community.  This designation should now ensure that condition remains good, great news for the creatures living there and for those making a living from the site.

“It is recognition, too, that our underwater landscapes and habitats are as worthy of protection as those on land and we especially welcome the protection that this designation will afford. 

“A number of other local sites, mostly considerably smaller than this and covering other marine habitats from sand and gravel to seagrass meadows, are also being considered for protection as recommended Marine Conservation Zones.  A decision on these sites is expected next year.  You can support these sites by visiting http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/MCZfriends.”

For Defra's announcement, visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/09/13/studland-to-portland/

Tagged with: Living Seas