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Should you be dreading the dredge?

February 06, 2013 | Words By: Hugo

Surfers Against Sewage is calling on communities in North Cornwall to submit opinions on a massive and potentially devastating coastal dredging proposal.


Marine Minerals Limited are applying for a license to remove millions of tonnes of sediment from North Cornwall’s sea bed as little as 200 meters offshore at some of Cornwall’s premier beaches, including; St Ives Bay, Porthtowan, St Agnes and Perranporth.

If you have any concerns about this proposal, please register them with the Marine Management Organisation by Friday, 8th February. The case officer at the MMO is Ellen Moir.

SAS first raised concerns about this issue when the new Protect Our Waves petition was launched in August 2012. There are many potential adverse impacts associated with a proposal of this type, but SAS is especially concerned about threats to vital coastal processes, the marine environment, marine wildlife and local surfing resources. The North Cornish coastline is a valuable natural environment, already supporting thousands of jobs and generating millions of pounds for the region. Surfing alone brings in £64 million to Cornwall’s economy and supports 1,600 full time jobs.

The dredging proposal targets tin reserves stored in the sand, washed out from Cornwall’s historic mining activity. The dredging areas Marine Minerals Limited has identified are also some of Cornwall’s premier beach resorts. The proposal requests permission to dredge as close as 200 meters from the shore. Several millions of tonnes of sediment will be removed, with approximately 5% of the sediment refined for further use and the remaining 95% returned to the sea floor.

Throughout the licencing application the MMO has an obligation to identify the potential worst-case scenario. SAS are contacting the MMO and listing the following concerns.

Coastal Processes:
Removing and replacing several millions of tonnes of sediment has the potential to disrupting the natural build-up of sediment. This sediment plays a vital role in encouraging waves to break offshore, dissipating the majority of the wave’s energy before the waves reach the shore.

Disrupting the sediment could also impact on sand levels in the intertidal zones and above the high tide line at the beach. This could significantly reduce the quality of surfing waves and impair the beach experience for local residents and tourists.

Reanimating pollutants:
Disrupting the sediment around the river mouths at St Ives Bay, Porthtowan, St Agnes and Perranporth could also reanimate pathogens associated with Combined Sewer Overflow discharges and heavy metals used in mining. These could have serious impacts on the health of water users and the wider environment

Flora and fauna:
Removing millions of tons of sediment, processing it, then dumping it back on the seafloor it will impact biodiversity in the area. The species potentially at risk include seals, sharks, dolphins, crustaceans (crabs, lobsters etc.), sea fans and many more. They all play important roles in regulating our marine environment and support wildlife watching eco-tourism and diving. The special flora and fauna obviously support the important fishing economy, culturally important to the region.

SAS Campaign Director Andy Cummins says: “Disturbing and removing significant amounts of sediment from the North Cornish coast has the potential to devastate the fragile and complex environments that support surfing, tourism and fishing. SAS are raising these concerns and will continue to engage through the licencing application and we urge any interested parties to do the same.”

SAS will continue to consult on the proposal and ensure that surfers, waveriders and coastal communities are represented throughout the licencing process. You can support SAS’s concerns on this dredging proposal by signing the Protect Our Waves petition at protectourwaves.org.uk

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