Seabed dredging ban could help marine life
17:50 18 April 2022
Protecting vast underwater sandbars off the north Norfolk coast could lead to a regeneration of underwater life and an increase in ‘eco-tourism’ such as diving expeditions, it is hoped.
The government has presented plans to ban ‘bottom trawling’ and dredging in areas such as Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge off the Norfolk coast, as well as the large area of Dogger Bank which lies lies about 60 miles off the east coast of Yorkshire.
The measures aim to protect delicate underwater habitats from damaging fishing practices and have been described as “the start of the rewilding of the North Sea”.
Rob Spray, chairman of the action group Marine Conservation for Norfolk, said the ban was unlikely to lead to a diving boom at Dogger Bank, due to its distance from the coast and difficult depth from 20 to 30 m.
But Mr Spray, who also runs a marine environment project called Seasearch East, said the measure would help the overall North Sea environment, which would become more attractive for low-impact ‘eco-tourism’ as that he would recover.
“Dogger Bank would still be an advanced dive because you have to travel so far from shore and you have to be prepared for an exposed area,” he said. “But by protecting a large enough area, you create that kind of biological momentum for environmental recovery.”
Charles Clover, Executive Director of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the government has finally succeeded in protecting the Dogger Bank and the other three sites, which it promised to do a year ago.
“The Dogger itself is the size of the Bristol Channel so protecting it from damaging activity is a huge and welcome precedent for the protection of all of our marine protected areas off the UK which were once, almost all, “ paper parks”.
“This is the beginning of the rewilding of the North Sea.”
Karl Elliott, of Wymondham-based Scuba Libre – which operates dive trips off the north Norfolk coast, also welcomed the ban.
Mr Elliot said: ‘The action of trawling gear on the ground is causing extreme damage, and there is an awful lot of gear becoming numerous and causing danger to marine life.’
John Davies, a Cromer fisherman and president of the North Norfolk Fishermen’s Society, said crab and lobster fishermen on the coast should not be affected by the ban as they used traps, which did not scrape the seabed .