Aggregate Companies seek licence from MMO to dredge Kingmere MCZ

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has just completed a public consultation with statutory consultees, environmental organisations and the public over an application by Cemex UK and Tarmac Marine for a licence to dredge two seabed sites, Area 453 and 488, for sand and gravel.

Both of these sites, amounting to 4.68km2, are located in the Kingmere Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), located around 10km off the West Sussex coast.

Kingmere MCZ is 47.84km2, and is scheduled under the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 in order to protect the following habitats and species:

  • The habitat feature of subtidal mixed sediments and moderate energy intra-littoral rock. These are areas of the seabed where the sand and gravel is less than one metre deep, and includes “Kingmere Rocks” which is are a principal breeding and nesting site for Black Bream.
  • The habitat feature of subtidal chalk, a principal breeding and nesting area for Black Bream.
  • The species feature of Black Bream, Spondyliosoma cantharus.

 

Also identified as being of conservation importance within the MCZ is the native oyster, Ostrea edulis, although it is not a protected feature under the MCZ designation.

The dredging companies want to extract from Area 453 a maximum of 3,750,000 tonnes over 15 years, with a single year maximum of 500,000 tonnes. The sand and gravel in this location is 5 metres deep, and the application agrees to a restriction of 2 metres in the depth of extraction.

In the case of Area 488, the companies want to extract 3,000,000 tonnes over 15 years, with an annual maximum of 500,000 tonnes. Area 488 contains sand and gravel to a depth of 10 metres, and there is no restriction on the depth of extraction (except for the statutory limit that 0.5 metres must remain on the cessation of dredging).

Area 453 lies wholly within Kingmere MCZ, and Area 488 also lies within the MCZ except for about one-third of the site at its southern end. The aggregate companies have agreed to a restriction on dredging during the Black Bream breeding season, April to June. The area is also an important breeding and nursery ground for several other commercial species of fish, particularly sole.

The Marine Management Organisation will now consider the Environmental Statement submitted by the applicants, along with the representations made by various parties during the public consultation, and will issue its decision in due course on whether to grant a licence.

 

MARINET observes: We believe that the idea that a Marine Conservation Zone should be open to commercial exploitation, and especially when the activity removes its seabed and must therefore impact on the site’s marine life and ecology, is not just absurd but also immoral.

It is immoral because unless we respect the integrity of the marine world, and do so especially in key areas identified by us as sites for its conservation, then we have no regard either for the inherent rights of the marine world or for our role in its stewardship. In short, we are irresponsible and totalitarian in our outlook.

Such behaviour demonstrates that all that concerns us is the satisfaction of our own needs. Moreover, we evidence the belief that we are deeply ignorant because it is clear that we fail to understand that if the environment upon which we depend is damaged, in this case most seriously, then we also damage ourselves to an equal or even greater degree.

We have made a submission to the Marine Management Organisation which issues licences and regulates the use of MCZs, and this may be seen here. We have told the MMO that it should refuse the application, and that we can see no grounds for approval.

We have also encouraged other marine NGOs to make submissions to the MMO.


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