The stunning Falmouth Bay in Cornwall, part of the Fal and Helford Special Area of Conservation (SAC), has lived under a shadow for years. But once again this shadow has grown darker in the form of another attempt by the developers to push through their proposal to dredge the protected area. They have requested “pre-application advice” from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the latest in a long string of attempts to get their application through.
If you are a regular follower of this blog you have likely seen mention of Falmouth before. I lived there for three years during uni. During my fourth year of higher education in London, I wrote my MSc dissertation on the governance of the SAC and the threat of the dredging proposal, the very threat that’s re-emerged. It’s a place that lingers within me, my heartwood. A place that seems more my home than anywhere else.
Being a campaigner by trade can be depressing and heavy on the soul at times. Especially in the environmental charity sector where environmental issues struggle to get a look in alongside more “human” issues*. Take Brexit for example. I’ve always felt enormous sympathy for those who beg of our help, their beloved nature under threat from being stolen from them forever.
But I never realised just how truly devastating it can be until it happened to me. Twice, in a month. First, a stunning spinney of tall Poplars that I grew up admiring from my window, walking and horse-riding in are under threat from clear-felling by their landowner. I see those trees as my childhood, my home and a piece of my heart. And now, the second place I called home, the waters surrounding Falmouth that thrive with rare and unique life which could be dredged and smothered causing everlasting damage.
The plans and their impact
Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (owned by giant Peel Group) propose to dredge a deep channel in the bay through a section covered in rare and delicate ‘maerl’. They hope that by doing this larger cruise ships will be able to enter the harbour which will in turn will supposedly increase their profits and benefit the local economy. Maerl is a coral like substance that develops over long periods so cannot be recreated easily. It is rare and found in few places. The ‘special features’ including the maerl are why this bay is a protected area. Wildlife thrives in much of this area, I knew people at uni who had kayaked with dolphins and seen basking sharks in the bay. Without key habitats getting this protection these species with increasingly limited places to go could not survive.
The arguments don’t add up
Not only will cause multiple negative impacts on the wildlife and special features, but it would be all for naught. The economic arguments have been easily pulled apart as exaggerations and miscalculations by the locals and the New Economics Foundation. It won’t create the numbers of jobs predicted or money spend in the town. The impact on local fishers’ income could be disastrous as destruction of the seabed and the dumping of the waste will destroy their fishing grounds and habitats for other wildlife. A fisherman I interviewed for my dissertation was incensed by the plans and is helping lead the opposition. He, alongside others, could lose his livelihood. It’s also unlikely these large cruise ships can ever enter the bay due to the wind speeds blowing against their large surface area anyway. I agree Cornwall is an economically struggling county that needs economic rejuvenation but this is not the way.
How you can help
The wonderful Marine Conservation Society (I knew I was a member for a reason!) have taken up the campaign to ask the MMO to consider the evidence and protect the SAC. So please help to stop this needless destruction by taking part in their quick and easy action here. You can add your own personal thoughts to the message if you wish to. Thank you, it means the world.
You can find out more about the poor arguments on the Falmouth Bay and Harbour Action Facebook page, or ask me more about the SAC as I’ve written 15,000 words on the subject!
*I use quotation marks as in reality there’s nothing more human than environmental issues. The natural resources it provides us that we literally cannot live without and our innate connection with nature mean there’s not much