Falmouth Harbour is home to some important habitats that provide services without which our lives and the lives of sea creatures would be adversely impacted. We are taking steps to raise awareness of the importance of these habitats and want to work with stakeholders to understand how to minimise impacts.
So far Falmouth Harbour have created a seagrass regeneration area and marked areas of seagrass and maerl so harbour users understand where they are. For information on how the Seagrass is regenerating click here.
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.
Sensitive marine habitats of seagrass and maerl have been marked using buoys by Falmouth Harbour with the Ocean Conservation Trust and their main partners Plymouth Gin.
Boats anchoring over seagrass and maerl beds have a physical impact and we know the vast majority of marine leisure users want to do their bit to protect the environment. We hope the new marker buoys will raise awareness of where the sensitive areas are.
A full Q and A has been provided below. If you have any further questions please get in touch.
Q: Why are you marking areas of Seagrass and Maerl?
A: Both Seagrass and Maerl are sensitive to the physical impacts caused by anchoring and mooring. We want to highlight where these areas are as they are not currently marked on charts unless there is a no anchor zone in the area.
Seagrass and maerl provide valuable services to coastal communities. They absorb carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away in the sediments helping with climate change and at the same time release oxygen. They also provide important habitats for lots of commercial and rare species of fish and shellfish. Seagrass also creates a network of roots that help to stabilise the sand and shore whilst the fronds dampen the effects of storms.
We hope by highlighting these valuable habitat areas harbour users will be able to understand more about how our actions can impact our marine environment. Falmouth Harbour and the Ocean Conservation Trust are really interested in discussing potential solutions / ideas from harbour users on how we can continue to enjoy the harbour in the way we want to but without impacting on sensitive habitats.
We would also like to highlight best practice to be used if anchoring in sensitive areas which can be found here.
More information on seagrass restoration please click here.
Q: How much has this initiative cost harbour users?
A: Falmouth Harbour were very proud to be approached by the Ocean Conservation Trust to work in partnership to develop marks to raise awareness of the sensitive seabeds we have here in Falmouth.
Plymouth Gin are working with the Ocean Conservation Trust and have helped sponsor the buoys, following their recent campaign, hosted by Ben Fogle. Toni Ingram, Global Brand Director for Plymouth Gin, says: “We are proud to be partnering once again with the Ocean Conservation Trust to help protect and regenerate such a valuable habitat in Falmouth Harbour. The ocean is integral to Plymouth Gin’s history, having been hand-crafted on the South West Coast in England’s oldest working gin distillery since 1793.” For more information, please click here.
We feel this collaboration highlights what can be achieved when organisations work together, and our thanks go to the OCT and Plymouth Gin. We all now need to work together as harbour users to find solutions so we can enjoy the harbour environment whilst not leaving anything behind.
Q: If I want to anchor in these marked areas can I and how is this meant to make me feel?
A: Yes, you can still anchor as we are not enforcing any rules. We are raising awareness of where sensitive seabeds are located, this is not to make people feel guilty or bad about using the area in this way but we would like to encourage the use of best practice (green blue anchoring) and also start conversations about what we, as a harbour authority, could do with regards to provision of alternatives such as advanced mooring systems or other similar infrastructure to prevent impacts in the future to these valuable habitats.
The goal is to get to a point where we can all use the harbour in the way we want to but at the same time not to cause impacts.
Q: How would I impact the seabed in these areas?
A: The markers are over maerl and seagrass beds (click here for charts). The action of the anchor dragging and cutting into the seabed damages the seagrass and maerl. If this is done many times in different places this can have a significant impact on habitat health. For further information please click here.
Q: If I do anchor in these areas how can I limit the impact?
A: No, these moorings are not designed to take a boat and will therefore not be effective.
Q: Are these moorings advanced mooring systems?
A: No, these moorings are not advanced mooring systems (AMS) but we will be deploying AMS in the near future. However as we are in the process of understanding appropriate designs we may not be able to implement this fully this year.
We are working towards implementing more AMS throughout the harbour where we can be confident this type of mooring is suitable.
This year we are also completing a trial of an advanced mooring system designed to hold a vessel so this should provide further information on the suitability of AMS.
Q: What do the marks look like?
A: The marks have been chosen to look different to other special marks in the area such as sailing marks. The new buoys will replace the seasonal marks over St Mawes Bank marking the ski area and perform the dual purpose of marking the ski area and reminding harbour users that this is an area of sensitive seabed.
We are also replacing the 4 knot marks off Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Castle Beach to highlight sensitive seabeds and mark the 4-knot speed zone to ensure the safety of all water users is maintained. We have increased the number of marks and changed the positioning to create a straight visual line across the beaches so all harbour users can clearly understand where the zones are.
There will be a new mark off Carricknath Point to demarcate the vibrant seagrass and maerl beds in this area. We have ensured St Mawes Harbour are happy with this mark as this is close to the entrance of St Mawes Harbour.
Q: What will happen to the buoys these marks are replacing?
A: We are hopeful we can reuse the old marks for other purposes around the harbour. Some have reached the end of their useful life and we are looking into the best way to dispose of these.
Seagrass regeneration in Falmouth
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. For more information please click here.
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.
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 (click here to see chart). 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 email@example.com
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.
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. For an update on how the Seagrass is regenerating click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or through our social media links Falmouth Harbour Instagram.
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.
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.
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.
If anyone has any questions please get in touch.
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.
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 click here for more information.
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: