Protect our Harbour

Falmouth harbour is home to some important habitats that provide important services without which our lives and the lives of sea creatures would be adversely impacted.

Environment

Seagrass

Seagrass is one such habitat. Seagrass performs a number of ecosystem services which include:

  • Locking carbon away in the sediments and producing oxygen,
  • Stabilising the seabed preventing seabed erosion and reducing the impacts of extreme weather events,
  • Providing a nursery habitat for commercially fished species,
  • Providing shelter and homes for numerous marine species other rare species such as seahorses and stalked jelly fish increasing biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems.

There are a number of initiatives looking into the restoration of seagrass and prevention of impacts. For more information please look at the Project Seagrass website and Life Recreation ReMEDIES for more information on this important work.

Seagrass regeneration in Falmouth

Harbour are looking into ways we can contribute positively to the climate and biodiversity crises currently underway. As part of this we are hoping to reduce pressures caused by our activities on the Seagrass beds in our waters.

As a start we have removed 11 swinging moorings that were having a localised impact on the seagrass bed at Flushing due to the action of the heavy chain moving across the surface of the seabed. To ensure the impacts caused by the moorings are not replaced by other physical impacts we are asking harbour users not to anchor or lay fishing gear likely to interact with the seagrass in the area where we have removed the moorings. This area is demarcated by hatching in the chartlet at the bottom of this page and is marked with two yellow buoys.

We have also provided information on the extent of seagrass in the Flushing area and other areas in our waters to improve harbour user awareness of where it is. If you can avoid anchoring in these areas to avoid physically damaging the seagrass bed underneath we would encourage this behaviour. Falmouth Harbour would like to understand more about how not anchoring in these areas will impact on your use of the harbour so we can start to work towards solutions that allow use of an area whilst not disturbing sensitive seabed habitats.

Please get in touch with any concerns or questions you may have on this activity so these can be considered.

View of sea grass beds

What is seagrass?

Q: What is seagrass?

A: Seagrass (also known as eel grass) is a flowering plant that inhabits shallow waters. There is around 45 hectares of Seagrass in Falmouth Harbours’ waters. Research has shown that Seagrass provides lots of benefits to us and the marine environment. Seagrass provides a nursery and lifelong habitat for rare and commercially fished species. Sediment stabilisation through complex root systems. A dampening effect against the impacts waves can have on the shore during extreme weather events. It also removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locks it away in the seabed. For more information please visit the Project Seagrass website.

Project Seagrass has also created a video describing the importance of Cornwall Seagrass beds. Click here to view the video.

 

Q: Why does seagrass need protecting?

A: UK Seagrass has declined by up to 90% due to disease and pressures resulting from human activity. Falmouth Harbour want to contribute to protection efforts to preserve and regenerate seagrass and have therefore removed 11 swinging moorings that were having a localised impact on the seagrass bed at Flushing. We would like to ensure this impact is not replaced by other activities that may impact on the seagrass such as anchoring to give the seagrass the best chance at regenerating. We are therefore asking people not to anchor in the area (see chart below). We will monitor the regeneration of the seagrass in collaboration with the University of Exeter and communicate the results through this website. If you would like to find out when we have updated this information please follow our Falmouth Harbour instagram page.

Removal of moorings

Q: Why have you removed the moorings?

A: Traditional swing moorings are made up of a heavy granite block, a section of heavy chain and a riser chain which is attached to a buoy. Swing moorings have a localised impact on the seabed due to the section of heavy chain which lies on the seabed moving around as the attached boat moves with the current and wind. The movement of this heavy chain damages the seagrass and prevents it from growing in the area where the chain lies on the seabed. We have removed the moorings to remove this impact and allow the seagrass to regenerate. Further information on the impacts of anchoring and mooring are available here.

Q: Why are you asking people not to anchor in this area?

A: The action of the anchor dragging and cutting into the seabed damages the seagrass. If this is done many times in different places this can have a significant impact on the seagrass beds health. For further information please click here.

 

Q: How will this area be marked and what will happen if I do anchor in this area?

A: We are placing two demarcation buoys in the locations described in port notice no 4 of 21. We are planning to regularly patrol the area any boats found anchored will be asked not to do so again and be provided with guidance and advice on why anchoring is not advised in the area. If this behaviour is repeated frequently we may have to implement our powers of harbour direction to further discourage this behaviour. We understand this is a change for people and would like to discuss potential alternatives to ensure we can all still continue to enjoy the harbour in the way we want to whilst not impacting on important seabed habitats.

Q: Where else can I anchor to get access to Flushing Beach?

A: We don’t want to reduce your enjoyment of the area and are therefore considering installing some advanced mooring systems to prevent damage to the seagrass on the seabed whilst still providing access to Flushing beach. We would like to understand your thoughts around this potential initiative. Please get in touch with us to discuss further on info@falmouthharbour.co.uk

Q: Can I use the demarcation buoys to attach to?

A: No these moorings are not designed to take a boat and will therefore not be effective.

Seagrass recovery

Q: If you protect this seagrass will it grow into other areas and restrict the use of other areas of the harbour?

A: Seagrass is restricted to shallow areas where it can access sunlight to enable it to grow. This naturally limits its extent. The protection of the seagrass bed at Flushing may mean it will expand slightly. If this does happen we intend to look at solutions to allow continued use of the area by harbour users whilst still not impacting on the seagrass growing on the seabed. Advanced mooring systems (eco moorings) or provision of further berthing facilities i.e. pontoons are being considered as alternatives to anchoring. If you have any thoughts or opinions on this we would be happy to discuss them with you.

 

Q: Seagrass is eaten by marine life in other parts of the world and still survives isn’t the mowing of seagrass through anchoring and mooring a good thing?

A: Not in this case, anchoring and traditional mooring systems have been proven to impact on seagrass at the root and prevent it growing.

Q: What is the extent of seagrass in the Flushing area and elsewhere in Falmouth Harbour?

A: Please click here for charts detailing the extent of the Seagrass within Falmouth Harbour. If you have any further questions, please do get in touch with us on 01326 213537 or info@falmouthharbour.co.uk or through our social media links Falmouth Harbour Instagram.

Anchoring in Falmouth Harbour

Please try not to anchor in areas of seagrass. If you would like to discuss alternatives and solutions to anchoring in these areas we would very much like to discuss these with you. Please contact us on info@falmouthharbour.co.uk or 01326 213537.

Maerl

What is maerl? Maerl is a calcified seaweed, it is pink / red in colour and it forms beds. The maerl beds form a complex habitat which provides homes for lots of species at some or all of their life cycle. It is also an important blue carbon store as it locks carbon dioxide away from the atmosphere. Maerl is slow growing only an estimated 1mm per year.

A recent study has found the maerl in Falmouth to be genetically distinct from other populations close by.

Where is maerl in Falmouth The largest and most impressive live maerl bed is located on St Mawes Bank.

Did maerl use to be extracted as a fertiliser? Historically maerl was extracted from the harbour and used as a fertiliser. When the impacts of these activities were fully understood (see below studies) this activity, previously licenced by Falmouth Harbour was stopped.

  • Marine Ecological Survey of the Fal Estuary: Effects of Maerl Extraction – January 2004 – Royal Haskoning (50-R017-01)
  • Monitoring Survey of the Fal Estuary: Effects of Maerl Extraction – November 2004 – Royal Haskoning (50-R016-01)

Is maerl endangered or under threat in Falmouth

Maerl is thought to be impacted by anchoring. The movement of the anchor through the maerl is thought to crush the maerl damaging it and reducing its complexity and thus value as a habitat.

Maerl is located on the seabed where both recreational and commercial anchoring takes place. Commercial anchoring takes place in Falmouth Bay and Falmouth Harbour are intending to find out more on this activity and the impact it is having on the predominantly dead maerl beds found in this area.

We intend to work with recent survey information gathered by Cornwall IFCA and with Plymouth University to develop a study to look into the impact of anchoring on maerl in Falmouth Bay. We hope the results of this study will provide more clarity and help us to determine the most effective methods to limit and reduce impacts associated with the activity.

Regulations

There are a number of regulations that apply to the harbour and those that use it. As part of our Environmental Management system we maintain a legislation register detailing all of the legislation relevant to our activities along with standards and guidance we choose to adopt. Environmental regulations that apply to harbour users include

Flushing Moorings
FAQ

Wildlife Watching

Your can see amazing local marine life when you are out and about on the water and we are sure we all want to keep it that way!

There is some guidance on best practice on how to watch marine life safely available from the Cornwall Marine Life Code website. If you follow this guidance you should be able to have a great experience and leave the marine wildlife unaffected.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust run a system for recording public sightings of marine animals. Click here to submit a report. This information will help with understanding more about the natural environment and how we can best conserve it.

Training has also been developed for commercial operators working in the wildlife watching sector through the WiSe scheme.

Waste

Falmouth Harbour produces wastes through its activities. We also provide waste facilities for customers to use. For more information on the waste facilities for customers please see the attached waste leaflet.

Falmouth Harbour has installed a Seabin on the Falmouth Haven pontoons. We are hopeful this will remove waste from the water column and contribute in a small way to cleaning the marine environment.

We also try to remove visible litter from the surface of the water on a regular basis.

There are ways we can all work to reduce single use plastics. We also have some great local groups working towards a single use plastic free future, for more information see below:

Campaigning for a More Sustainable Community| Plastic Free Falmouth

Surfers Against Sewage | Environmental charity tackling plastic pollution (sas.org.uk)

Home – Preventing Plastic Pollution

Reduce plastic waste by playing Plastic Free Bingo from the Environment Agency

Seabin installed