Seagrass Isle Of Wight

Raising awareness of seagrass at the Seagrass Symposium

3 minute read

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, Principal Specialist, Marine Protected Areas

11 Mar 2024

In the lead-up to World Seagrass Day on March 1st, we were involved in a great deal of seagrass awareness raising and action.

Last month, we held an EU-wide Seagrass Symposium, hosted by Seas At Risk and in collaboration with our ReMEDIES project lead, Fiona Tibbitt, to shine a light on this vital habitat and how we can protect it.

Starting with an online workshop hosted by our Brussels-based colleagues at Seas At Risk, we shared the success of our Advanced Mooring Systems in helping seagrass recover from abrasion from traditional chain-link heavy moorings.

We replaced 17 devices between 2019 and 2021 in Cawsand Bay in Plymouth, and have recorded a 212% increase in the density of seagrass as a result, demonstrating the success of these systems. With participants from over eight EU countries at the workshop, we hope that our work encourages other regions to undertake similar projects to protect this vital habitat.

Sand eels in seagrass meadow

Sand eels swimming among a seagrass meadow

Credit: Heather Hamilton

Fiona Tibbitt, the Natural England project lead for ReMEDIES then gave a great presentation about the UK EU-funded project which seeks to protect and restore seagrass and delicate biodiversity habitats in five southern English Marine Protected Areas.

Project partners, including the Marine Conservation Society, are involved in dive surveys (with our very own Seasearch project), awareness raising, and restoring and protecting beds through planting and Advanced Moorings, like we've done in Plymouth.

We've seen great efforts to make seagrass and other habitats recover in these MPAs, whilst boaters are more aware of the location and delicacy of the habitats.

Mark Parry recording cawsand.jpg

A diver recording seagrass in Cawsand

Finally, we heard from Marcial Bardolet who works in the Balaeric Islands to protect seagrass. There, vast recreational vessels are now anchoring away from well-mapped seagrass beds, whilst mooring buoys are linked to timetabled activity, and are all Advanced Mooring Systems. There is policing in-water, in real-time, giving enforcement bodies power to move vessels away from beds, whilst providing them with literature on the reasons why, and issue fines as a last resort.

Jean-Luc Solandt, our Principal Specialist (MPAs), then travelled to Castle Cove Sailing Club in Portland Harbour, which is actively involved in changing boat use to protect the area’s seagrass beds. During this visit, our aim was to make the community and wider public understand the beauty and importance of seagrass.

Here, after a year of Remote Operated Video (ROV) and dive surveys by Seasearch following the installation a No Anchor Zone in 2022, an in-depth social science dive into opinions on seagrass protection, and a workshop we held to raise awareness of Advanced Mooring System solutions, Castle Cove Sailing Club pledged to trial eight Advanced Mooring Systems in 2024, and may even install some shallow-water Advanced Moorings in areas of seagrass this year on a permanent basis.

No anchor Zone buoy - SALCOMBE_GIN

'No anchor zone' buoys we installed at Castle Cove Sailing Club alongside Salcombe Distilling Co.

Credit: Salcombe Distilling Co.

At Jean-Luc’s recent visit, over 70 boaters and members of the local community learned of the importance of seagrass from him, before hearing from the senior curator of the nearby Sealife Centre, Chris Brown, and his daughter, who have been videoing and recording seahorse abundance and behaviour in the beds of the bay twice a month for over two years. In 2023 alone, they experienced over 45 encounters with seahorses.

Spiny Seahorse in Seagrass

A spiny seahorse in seagrass

Credit: Georgie Bull

It was a very successful few days, where partners, communities and organisations came together to learn, raise awareness and share knowledge about seagrass. This ocean superhero is invaluable, which is why we’re committed to protecting and restoring it – for wildlife, people, and planet.

The work the Marine Conservation Society is carrying out is supported by Seas At Risk, EU-LIFE ReMEDIES funding, Salcombe Distilling Company and Princess Yachts.