During the processing of a licensing application in late January 2015, the MMO was advised by Natural England of the existence of an area of sub tidal mud situated in the Whitsand and Looe Bay MCZ. The MCZ is in the proximity of the Rame Head disposal site.
Following the advice from Natural England, which identified the sub tidal mud as part of a separate verification process to develop evidence on the MCZ, the MMO asked our scientific advisors (Cefas) to review historical sediment data obtained under the Dredged Material Disposal Site Monitoring programme in relation to the existence of the mud. Furthermore, Cefas were asked to ascertain whether any pathways exist between disposal operations at Rame Head and the mud found to be present in the MCZ.
Cefas reviewed historical sediment data and has advised the MMO that the mud habitat has been recorded at this location within the MCZ since Rame Head monitoring began in 2001 and that surveys suggest it is a stable habitat supporting a well-established community of benthic organisms. It is not possible to determine the origin of the subtidal mud habitat within the MCZ, however it is unlikely that the subtidal mud is attributable to disposal activities at the Rame Head site.
The MMO is leading a characterisation study with users of the Rame Head disposal site to identify a sustainable longer term site for disposal of dredged material.
John Tuckett, Chief Executive Officer said:
“As a responsible marine manager we took a precautionary approach and did not licence any disposal at the Rame Head site until we were clear on whether the patch of mud in the MCZ was attributable to dredged sediment disposal activities at Rame Head.
“Now that we have clarity, the site becomes a viable option for disposal although the MMO recognise that there are public concerns at Rame Head and we are working with key users of the existing site with a view to finding a suitable alternative site to enable long-term sustainable disposal operations in the south-west.”