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Published - 06/06/2017

Research on seabed beneath Eddystone shows early signs of recovery

We are excited to report that surveys of the seabed beneath Eddystone, 12 miles off the coast of South West of England, is showing early signs of recovery following protection from bottom-towed fishing gears.

The site has been surveyed by underwater cameras each year for three years by a team from the Marine Conservation Society, the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, and the University of Exeter. Princess Yachts, of Plymouth, is funding continued research at the site.

Watch this video showing footage from recent underwater surveys at Eddystone and reefs nearby.

Eddystone Reefs is a series of jagged rocks below the iconic Eddystone Lighthouse. It is a marine protected area, designated under European law, and the latest results show that numbers of sea anemones and cup corals have more than doubled, tube worms quadrupled, and many other species that can now live on the seabed have thrived, providing shelter and food for fish and other marine creatures.

The results demonstrate the benefits of the new network of marine protected areas around Britain’s coast and strengthen calls for greater restrictions on bottom-towed gears in sensitive areas.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS specialist on marine protected areas, says “There has been an increase in seven out of ten types of delicate seabed animals, which grow upright and are churned up by the chains and sharp metal teeth dragged over the seabed by trawlers. Two years after the dredging ban, the area covered by bryzoans, which are tiny primitive animals that live in colonies and provide habitat for juvenile scallops, has doubled.”

“When they become dense and carpet the seabed, delicate upright growth forms become a sheltering habitat for other species and filter particles from the water column. By dredging these areas up, scallop dredgers are dredging away their future. Bottom trawls stop the ocean becoming richer.”

Full recovery of the reef would take 20 to 30 years and this recovery needs to continue to be monitored annually. Surveys led by MCS, University of Exeter and Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority will continue for another three years thanks to funding from Princess Yachts International who are based in Plymouth.

Marketing Director, Princess Yachts, Kiran Haslam says: “We are incredibly proud to be the first motor yacht brand to partner with the Marine Conservation Society and we are 100% committed to this project.  The ocean is our playground, and it is a primary concern of the entire Princess community, with not only customers and our company committed, but also our distribution network showing overwhelming support with pledges from Princess Yachts Monaco and Princess Yachts Russia providing substantial financial support to MCS.”

We hope this news of early signs of recovery at Eddystone will encourage other similar measures and monitoring programmes for some of the other 50 marine conservation zones that have been designated since 2013 which cover over 20% of English waters.

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