BOATERS are being urged to engage after no-anchor zones in Studland were extended as part of a scheme to protect marine life.

The second phase of a habitat protection strategy in Studland Bay was rolled out in June by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which expanded voluntary no-anchor zones.

In order to reduce damage to seagrass and protected species like seahorses, the newly expanded no-anchor zone covers the entire seagrass area in the waters off South Beach – between Middle Beach and Handfast Point.

Feedback has been largely positive from the large boating community in Dorset according to MMO representatives who conducted information drop-ins in Poole and Studland this week to gauge views.

Bournemouth Echo: Damage to seagrass at Studland Bay due to dropped anchor and chains. Picture: Natural EnglandDamage to seagrass at Studland Bay due to dropped anchor and chains. Picture: Natural England

Nick Greenwood, of the MMO conservation team, told the Echo: “We’re responsible for ensuring a whole range of activities don’t damage marine protected areas, which Studland Bay is.

“One of the issues we’ve identified is that anchoring over the seagrass in that popular area is unfortunately damaging seagrass beds. Nationally, seagrass has been recovering since there was a big wasting disease which wiped a lot of it out – so the seagrass is expanding but anchoring is stopping the recovery being where it should.”

Despite only covering around 0.2 per cent of the ocean’s surface, seagrasses form critically important ecosystems. Dragging anchors can uproot seagrass, disrupting ecology and habitats.

While the scheme gives boaters the choice about anchoring in the affected area, the MMO says it could end up enforcing the scheme by law if necessary.

Bournemouth Echo: Voluntary no-anchor zone extended in Studland to protect marine lifeVoluntary no-anchor zone extended in Studland to protect marine life

Nick added: “We have the power to make bylaws and can make it a criminal offence to anchor there but we’ve not done that yet because we want to get people engaged and invested in making the voluntary aspect a success.”

The desire for local boaters to have more moorings installed as a counter to anchoring is being looked into by the MMO with help from the Studland Bay Marine Partnership. It is hoped ‘eco-moorings’ can be installed, in which a helical screw is inserted into the seabed with buoyant high strength poly-fibre rope attachable to vessels.

Nick concluded: “We recognise it won’t be a quick or easy win but the vast majority of people we engage with are really supportive. With their help we will protect this area for years to come.”

Anchoring in the event of an emergency is always acceptable, even if a statute is in place.