Bournemouth University experts have been reviewing the impact of cruise ships, anchored in Poole Harbour during the Covid-19 pandemic, and have found evidence of seabed ‘scarring’ from the anchors of the ships.
BU’s Dr Alice Hall and Dan Pascoe surveyed the site and took underwater images, videos and photogrammetry of the Poole Bay area to assess the impact and potential damage left behind by the ships, which were grounded during pandemic restrictions.
They found significant tracks on the seabed left by the anchors, where habitats and marine life had been scraped away, damaging the environment of the floor, and possibly marine heritage, which is prominent off the coast of Dorset.
Dr Alice Hall, a post-doctoral researcher at BU, said, “The extent of damage is very significant with large areas of the seabed destroyed. This marine habitat destruction is a global issue and coupled with other impact such as climate change will have a serious effect on the biodiversity of the seas. Without hard rocky reef for marine life to live on it will not be able to survive.
“Sensitive habitats were also impacted including the British Action Bap (BAP) habitat Sabellaria spinulosa. This is a species which the UK should be conserving. Although the ships in Poole Bay were not anchoring in Marine Protected Areas they did anchor on some sensitive habitats.”
Dorset Wildlife Trust conducted a similar survey of the region across Weymouth Bay, with similar findings. The longer term plan for the team will be to obtain funding for a more in-depth study looking at the marine life and archaeology within the region, including rates of marine recovery, to begin to inform decisions on the governing of anchoring and ship use in the area to protect the region’s habitat.
Dr Hall also made suggestions on solutions that could be considered in future to protect the local marine environment, “Designated large ship anchoring areas should be designated in areas which do not contain sensitive or protected species. Areas which contain sensitive species and habitat should be clearly marked on navigational charts.”
The project has received widespread media coverage, including the BBC website.
For more information about BU’s conservation and environmental work, visit the Life Environmental Sciences pages of the BU website.
Image copyrights: Alice Hall. Photogrammetry copyright: Dan Pascoe