Kent Wildlife Trust, as part of the Balanced Seas project, submitted a 277 sq km area around and including the Goodwin Sands to be designated a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). It was included in DEFRA’s third and final tranche in June 2018, yet the MMO granted the licence just one week after the end of the public consultation.
One of the features designated for protection within the MCZ is the subtidal sand which is the target aggregate to be dredged. This meant that the MMO had to undertake a full MCZ assessment as part of the licence application; however they concluded that the conservation objectives (to maintain the subtidal sand in its present condition) would not be affected and that it would recover (although they estimate it will take five years to do so). This conclusion seems illogical at the very least.
The proposed dredging zone includes the spawning and nursery grounds of several varieties of fish and the whole ecosystem of the area is based upon the sandeel which inhabits the seabed. Blue mussels, ross worms, shellfish, and the protected Thornback Ray are also found here. Remove the sand and gravel from the seabed and the natural habitat of all these species is lost.
The sediment plume (suspension of sediment in the water) created by the dredging risks asphyxiating fish eggs and less mobile saline.
The Thanet Fishermen consider their concerns regarding the disturbance to the sealife in the area have been completely ignored by Dover Harbour Board’s surveyors and the importance of these traditional fishing grounds has been underestimated.
According to the Zoological Survey of London’s most recent survey, a colony of nearly 500 grey and harbour seals live on the sandbanks north of the proposed dredging zone. They will be disturbed in their haul out site by the noise and vibration of the massive dredgers so close to their habitat. Also, their source of food would be reduced.
Conservationists are concerned this disturbance will cause fundamental changes in their behaviour including spontaneous abortions during the breeding season and pups becoming separated from their mother and ending up alone on the beaches of Kent.
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