With the heatwave hitting Northern Europe and the UK this week, a post about boating couldn't go amiss. Who wouldn't love to be on a yacht in a nice bay in the sunshine as they are reading this?
But... do you know that you can have an environmental impact even if you have the most ecofriendly of sailing boats? Hope my sailing friends are reading this!
So you left the harbour, the winds were in your favour and you have sailed all day, no engine and you finally arrive at your chosen bay to spend the evening - you prepare to drop the anchor... and here lies the problem
This pictures should give you a good clue as to why anchoring might pose a problem: from above you don't know where your anchor may land, and chances are that the habitat down below is a very important biogenic habitat such as a seagrass bed. Seagrass beds play a major role in benthic systems: not only they are biodiversity hotspots and function as nursery habitats for many species of fish and crustaceans (many of them of commercial importance!), but they also accumulate carbon (so called blue carbon sinks) - seagrass meadows cover only 0.1% area of the world’s ocean floor, yet account for 10–18% of the total oceanic carbon burial! That's a heck of a service...!
However many of these services depend on seagrass density, and particularly can be diminished in fragmented seagrass beds - fragmentation which can be caused by human disturbances such as anchoring (and anchor scour when retrieving).
But does this mean we should say goodbye to beautiful views like these when in a beautiful mediterranean bay?
As always, solutions are possible.
In my sailing years around the mediterranean, I found Croatia to provide a great solution: mooring buoys in most bays, particularly around their national parks (for example the beautiful island of Mijet - I totally recommend a visit!). Yes, the mooring buoys don't come free, and they are normally associated with local restaurants - but hey you are being environmentally friendly and eating a yummy dinner!
A project closer to home (for those in the UK) is the Torbay Seagrass Eco-mooring which is an experimental trial mooring (which is also being monitored for any potential environmental impact and for societal perception by the community seagrass initiative (CSI) program) - hopefully they will find these types of moorings have no negative effects and hopefully local users will start to understand their usefulness and they can be employed in other parts of the country to avoid boats from mooring on the important seagrass habitats.
What else could be done aside from providing mooring?
Conservation actions could focus on marking where seagrass beds are and provide information and clear maps to recreational users, with anchoring zones on bare sediment patches well and clearly marked (plus the anchor often holds better on bare sediments!). Education is key, and when people are informed they will make informed decisions that are often the right choice (I believe in humanity).. but we cannot expect everyone to be aware of their impacts without information.
As a boat user before a marine ecologist, i know information is lacking from Pilots and maps - and this should change so we can enjoy our post-sailing evening in the bay above water while protecting what's below!
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