Molly Scott Cato MEP has called for Studland Bay to be turned into a Marine Conservation Zone (MRZ) following a recent visit to the area in the Isle of Purbeck. She says she was alarmed to hear that Studland Bay has not been included in DEFRA’s consultation on the Second Tranche of MCZs, as widely expected.
The decision to exclude Studland Bay from the consultation is said to be because there were concerns that designation of the site could impact on commercial fishing, local harbour activity and recreational boating activities.
However, Dr Scott Cato has echoed the call of conservationists who say the bay contains a rich and diverse wildlife habitat, and is both internationally important and unique, particularly because of its seagrass habitat  which is home to two UK species of seahorse. Molly Scott Cato said:
“We recognise that this is a busy recreational area, with over 300 boats mooring in the bay on a busy summer day. But we believe it is possible to address the concerns of boaters and other leisure users of the bay, by catering for their activities whilst preventing disturbance to marine life. There is no reason why Studland Bay could not continue to be a multi-use site which allows for low impact water-based activities to continue alongside thriving wildlife.”
Dr Scott Cato has responded to the Marine Conservation Zones consultation to outline her concerns and is working with Dorset Wildlife Trust, to support them in ensuring Studland Bay makes it into tranche 3, the third and final tranche of proposed MCZs.
 Information on seagrasses
Seagrasses are the only true marine flowering plants and form a unique meadow habitat in shallow water. The species at Studland is the common eelgrass, Zostera marina. The underground rhizomes and roots of the seagrass help bind together and stabilise the seabed sediment, reducing risk of erosion. It is nationally scarce in Britain and is of international importance.
The seagrass plants provide food for wildfowl and the meadows shelter a wide range of fish and invertebrates. Seagrass meadows act as a nursery ground for commercially important fish and shellfish such as bass, sea bream, plaice, sole, cuttlefish and spider crabs by offering plentiful food and shelter at this vulnerable time of their life. Protection of this site would therefore benefit commercial fishing in the wider area.
Globally, seagrass meadows are under threat. A recent study reported that 58% of the world’s seagrass meadows are declining; the main causes being direct loss from coastal development and dredging and indirect impacts of declining water quality. Other impacts include boating, fishing and natural impacts such as storms and disease.
For further information see: The Wildlife Trust