Plans to carry out a small-scale dredging trial in Falmouth harbour to measure potential environmental impacts have moved forward this week after Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) applied for marine consent to carry out the trial.
If the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) grants consent, it is hoped the scientific trial will begin in May and will last for approximately six months. It would be carried out independently by Plymouth University Marine Institute.
Proposals to dredge a deep water channel into the docks have been held back by concerns around the impact of moving maerl, a calcified seaweed that covers the seabed in parts of the Fal, and the effect this could have on the aquatic species living among it.
But without dredging, the fear is that Falmouth’s future as a thriving working port would be threatened. Dredging a channel will safeguard existing port functions and open up new opportunities by accommodating larger vessels, including those that can support the growing marine energy industry.
David Ellis, Chairman of Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, said: “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and understand that there are concerns about dredging. FHC is responding to these concerns in order to ascertain the potential impact will be on the maerl communities.
“The trial will be funded by a joint arrangement between FHC and Cornwall Council, which is still being agreed in detail. The partners are committed to finding a way forward that enables commerce and conservation to work hand in hand.”
Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, said: “I am delighted the trial dredge is moving forward. There has been a great deal of speculation about the potential impact of dredging on the environment and this trial is designed to give a definitive answer.”
Peter Child, managing director of A&P Falmouth, added: “We all have an interest in the environment and supporting sustainable development but there needs to be a balance between both to sustain a vibrant economy and community.
“We will continue to highlight the substantial gains in both jobs and economic output from dredging the harbour, which has the potential to make a major positive impact on the Cornish economy.”