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Nature boost projects unveiled as National Marine Park bid submitted

Diver with shark

A series of ground-breaking projects to support and help vulnerable species flourish within the National Marine Park has been outlined as Council Leader Tudor Evans signs off the final delivery bid for the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park Horizons Project to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

As well as building on a range of existing research and nature recovery innovations, projects under the park’s ‘nature boost programme’ will support the recovery of iconic species of Plymouth Sound.

Details of this incredible programme have been finalised and it comes as Council leader Tudor Evans signs a decision to formally submit the delivery stage bid for the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park Horizons Project to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Council has also agreed to underwrite the project by £2 million as part of match funding support for the bid.

People will be encouraged to discover and understand species and habitats of the National Marine Park, why they are in danger and through the plans for a digital marine park, to connect and act, getting involved with practical activities join citizen science initiatives and create drivers for people to make real change.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Expanding biogenic reefs – these are incredible habitats that store carbon and are home to many species and act as a nursery for fish when the tide comes in.

Nature’s own ecosystem engineers, the humble oyster and mussels will play a part in the park. Left undisturbed, oysters create complex structures that support several ecosystem services by providing clean water and healthy fisheries.

People rockpooling

Native oyster populations have declined by 95 per cent in the UK since the mid-19th century due to overfishing, pollution, disease, and invasive species. This is a nature restoration project that will boost local biogenic reef habitats.

  • Intertidal mudflats – are submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide and are home to vast numbers of worms, bivalves and cockles buried within the mud.

As the tide falls mudflats and saltmarshes marshes are exposed to the air and become a popular habitat for waterfowl, wading birds and other species. This project aims to protect and conserve breeding and feeding grounds for Little Egrets and Avocets. It will increase understanding of wading birds through surveys and citizen science. Proposals include creating suitable access and viewing points, as well as engagement activities and a mud festival!

  • Support recovery of iconic species in the Sound by developing robust breeding protocols and working to boost species numbers to reduce vulnerability and increase climate resilience.

These projects will improve the quantity of available food supplies by careful breeding of target species to support vitally important species. The aim is to develop breeding protocols for up to five species which are important not just to Plymouth but the South West of England. These are thornback ray, spiny and short snouted sea horses.

  • Community Boost for Iconic Species – the best nature boost ideas often come from the people and communities who live, work, relax and play in, on, under or around the National Marine Park.

Community Boost projects will aim to kick-start small-scale projects that deliver nature boost activities supporting a community-led approach. It will reflect what people really want, and connects minds and actions of local people promoting health and wellbeing.

Two people sat together facing the ocean

Other aspects include developing interesting, interactive opportunities for people to experience these projects. This includes films, including ones that can be shown in the immersive dome and time-lapse, that will tell the story about the ‘Iconic species of the Sound’, their habitats and the role they play in the marine environment.  There will also be extensive citizen science initiatives to help develop new skills and foster a sense of inclusion, co-stewardship and connection. This could involve direct actions such as helping to remove non-native species like the Pacific Oyster and seeding activities to help create biogenic reefs.

Council Leader Tudor Evans OBE said: “This is an extraordinary programme designed to reverse some of the long term damage man has done to its environment and it has been created in such a brilliant way. For example, we help oysters to flourish again – they help us by helping to filter the water.  I love it!  The passion, the careful thinking, the extensive conversations with charities and organisations here in Plymouth to make these projects come alive and appeal to everyone is inspiring.

“This is just a snapshot of the National Marine Park’s ambition for nature. The offshoots for people, new skills, new passion and new pride in Plymouth are immeasurable.”

Councillor Andy Lugger, Leader of the Opposition said: “Nature is a fundamental part of what our PSNMP is about, but importantly in our park in the sea the connection between people and nature is key.  This is why this programme is so pioneering, we are developing ways for nature and people to not just co-exist but to deliver programmes that mean both people and wildlife will benefit. We always said the PSNMP would build on what is already great in Plymouth and together we will find ways to do even better, what a great example of this approach."

The National Marine Park is located within the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries Marine Protected Area (MPA), Plymouth City Council is a member of the Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum (TECF) and through this management partnership work with other statutory bodies to manage the estuary sustainably. The NMP will work with TECF and stakeholders to help protect and enhance the MPA and deliver its Management Plan.

Roger Maslin, CEO of the Ocean Conservation Trust said: “Seagrass is one of the most important habitats in the Ocean and Plymouth Sound has some of the best seagrass meadows in Europe but sadly so much has been lost over the last 100 years.

“We are delighted to be able to continue working with the University of Plymouth, Finance Earth and Plymouth City Council in developing a seagrass-based nature credit, which will help fund much-needed protection and restoration of this marine plant that keeps on giving.”

Councillor Kate Ewert, Cornwall Councillor for Rame Peninsula and St Germans added: “The breadth of the Boost Nature programme is extraordinary and I am really excited by the way these projects are not just about helping some of this area’s most threatened sea species, but making sure people on both sides of the Tamar and beyond get to learn about some of the amazing marine life on their door steps. I am particularly keen to see what comes out of the community led projects.”

About the NMP

The National Marine Park covers an area of 6,357 hectares and includes the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries MPA. It stretches out to sea between Rame Head and Gara Point in Wembury Bay, covering the Sound and stretching to the entrance of the Cattewater,  Lopwell on the River Tavy, Gunnislake on the River Tamar, and up to Landrake and Tideford on the Rivers Lynher and Tidd.

It is home to a wide range of habitats and species, many of which are special, rare and protected. For more information about the NMP visit:Homepage - Plymouth Sound National Marine Park and about the protected habitats and species visit http://www.plymouth-mpa.uk/.