The seagrass beds in Tor Bay are a feature of the designated Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) and are of particular ecological value. Seagrass beds are one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth on par with coral reefs, but they’re one of the fastest declining too. They provide a nursery habitat for many commercially important species such as pollock, scallops and cuttle fish, and provide a home to the UK’s native seahorses. They also provide us with coastal protection, improve water quality and can store atmospheric carbon even more efficiently than rainforests. Due to the sheltered and shallow water locations of these fragile habitats, they are particularly sensitive to anchoring activity which unfortunately can cause a lot of damage. The mooring will offer an alternative to anchoring and will act as a safe management measure for these important habitats, whilst still allowing boat users to enjoy the beauty and sanctuary of Fishcombe Cove.
Why has the mooring been installed?
The mooring has been installed to trial a design of mooring that is intended to alleviate anchoring pressure from the vulnerable seagrass beds, as well as keeping the mooring chain off the bed to prevent scouring. The project began in 2015 and has been implemented as a possible management measure of the sensitive seagrass habitat, 1 of 12 features of the Torbay MCZ.
Why Fishcombe Cove?
Fishcombe Cove was picked for several reasons. Firstly, because it is a popular cove for boat users to anchor due to its sheltered location and beautiful scenery, unfortunately the seagrass bed has suffered damage due to anthropogenic effects. Secondly, the cove being sheltered offers an appropriate location for the trial to take place, allowing easy access to monitoring and providing a degree of protection from the elements. Finally, the outcomes of this trial can be added to the knowledge gained from the previous survey projects conducted in the cove. This will allow a better understanding of how human impacts affect the seagrass in this location.
The exact location of the mooring was chosen as it is an area of bare seabed, with a buffer of roughly 6 metres before seagrass starts. This location was chosen, to inform the trial of whether seagrass will colonise around the mooring but also the habitat is protected and therefore a mooring cannot be directly placed on the seagrass bed. Dive surveys will be conducted over the summer, to monitor growth and spread of the seagrass.
What will the ongoing monitoring include?
Hannah Wilson from Plymouth University, will be monitoring the mooring over the 2017 season. Monitoring will include 2 elements; if there are any impacts of the mooring on the flora and fauna of the seagrass beds, and investigating the social science and behavioural change of users of the mooring. Hannah will be involved in dive surveys with the Community Seagrass Initiative (CSI) to monitor the direct habitat impacts of the mooring but also will be engaging with boating communities to monitor perception and use of the mooring. Boats continuing to anchor and usage of the mooring will also be monitored from shore. At the end of the season these results will be analysed and written up, providing a basis for ongoing monitoring but also influencing management.
How will it help management?
If the Eco-mooring trial is proven to have positive impacts on the condition of the seagrass bed and helps to reduce anchoring pressure, then it is likely that further moorings will be installed to appropriate areas as management measures, offering better protection.
How will the boating community be encouraged to use the mooring?
The mooring is available for anyone to use, free of charge. On the surface buoy the max. length is specified, it will be for boat users to agree amongst themselves how many boats can attach to the mooring at any one time, without exceeding the max. length. The CSI project will be engaging with local boat users and clubs to promote the mooring and provide answers to any concerns they might have. A film promoting the mooring and its benefits, and further details on the Sea Torbay page of the Harbour App will be available soon. Ongoing monitoring of usage will also provide an opportunity for positive engagement. If anyone has an queries regarding using the mooring or how they can help towards the protection of the seagrass beds, the following organisations can be contacted: Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, Living Coasts, Community Seagrass Initiative or the Sea Torbay Steering Group can be contacted via [email protected]