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Published - 06/12/2011

MCS calms fears of St Mawes sailors


MCS has just returned from a trip to St Mawes Sailing club near Falmouth where local sailors heard why the charity is unhappy with suggestions that mearl beds could be moved temporarily, to allow dredging in Falmouth Harbour to continue as part of the ports ongoing development.

MCS Senior Biodiversity Officer, Dr Jean-Luc Solandt discussed the issue of development proposals to dredge a 9m deep channel into the live and dead maerl reef to the east of the port. This would increase the size of vessels currently able to land at Falmouth Harbour, potentially allowing access for cruise liners as has been reported locally. A huge amount of public money has already been spent on developing the proposal, and doing an Appropriate Assessment. However earlier this year the Government blocked the development after the Marine Management Organisation said it would  harm the Special Area of Conservation. Now, the port is suggesting 'moving' the habitat temporarily, carrying out the dredging, and then replacing the habitat on top of the dredged area, just 3m deeper.

MCS doesn't believe this will be good for the local living maerl or the species that occur within the dead maerl. There is also the question of the vast million+ tones of dredge spoil that will be dumped outside of the bay - what impact will that have on wildlife? If its anything like that of the effect of the dredging and dumping in Plymouth, then this is further cause for concern.

The government is now considering fast-tracking the dredging, in order to provide jobs. MCS will continue to oppose the development on environmental grounds as we believe that the port will remain an important contributor to the local economy regardless of  expansion.  

The Marine Conservation Zone  project 'Finding Sanctuary'  has now proposed a reference site (no take) in the area just to the east of the port past the natural deepwater channel called the Carrick Roads. MCS is concerned that the development of the port, via the dredging, and by larger ships turning just to the west of the rich St Mawes Bank reference area, could smother this last healthy English maerl bed with sediments, and irrevocably harm it.

Many local St Mawes and Falmouth sailors are however concerned about the port, both it's necessary provision of jobs for the local community, but also it's environmental impact. 

The local yacht clubs rightly want to remain sailing over the maerl habitats and reference area. We don't have a problem with this and calmed fears about  bans on dog-walkers and kayakers which has only served to increase resentment of environmental protection measures in the Falmouth area. 

Dr Solandt said: "What MCS learned from doing the presentation was that the sailing club is concerned over the presence of the maerl, and would be keen to avoid anchoring or mooring on it. We were able to discuss the opportunity to put racing buoys in sympathetic locations relevant to the presence of the St Mawes reference site. At the end of the day, many of us want the same thing - to ensure the marine environment is available for everyone to use both now and in the future and that our special marine habitats remain intact."   

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