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Mussel Trials Risk Assessment 6 October 2015
Mussel Trial Timetable and Site map 6 October 2015
Commercial Mussel Beds in the River Stour 3rd. July 2014
As many of you know there is an application running for a commercial Mussel bed trial in five locations on the Stour Estuary. The responses to this have been wide and varied, and on behalf of the Stour Sailing club (and to some degree myself) I have been following developments closely and reporting back whatever I discover. So others are informed, there is a folder of information in the clubhouse which is updated as things progress. There is more documentation on various web sites that can be found via a Google search, including the original proposals themselves.
The short(!) version of events to date, is:-
i) A few months ago we learnt right at the end of a formal consultation period of just one month (as required by Defra), that a commercial mussel bed fishery is proposed on 5 sites on the Stour Estuary – some are quite large.
ii) Those who were concerned about this have effectively been kicking up as much fuss as possible to complain about the abysmal consultation process first, and the proposal itself second. The more cynical amongst us firmly believe the short time available to respond was intended to help ’slide it through’ before anyone realised what was happening. Some official discussions have for me, further reinforced that view.
iii) In my quest to challenge the consultation process I was able to obtain the help of Bernard Jenkin MP who is firmly on our side as far as the unacceptably short consultation process is concerned. I have also contacted Mr George Eustace (MP responsible for Defra) and Defra themselves who so far can’t be bothered to respond to any of us.
iv) The various activities we have been taking part in have at last woken Defra up, and the proposal will not go ahead without full consultation, and to some degree, the broad support of affected parties. Defra have said that the response to this proposal is unprecedented in its entire history – so somethings working?!
v) I attended a meeting with the applicant and their representatives on Wednesday night which was convened primarily to discuss safety, and acceptable navigation risks due to the proposed development (we did however take the opportunity to ‘make very clear’ our views on the broader issues!). As example of what were up against, ‘their’ safety consultant advised they now had a good ‘picture’ of vessel movements in the area and therefore safety – stating they had for some time monitored tracks of AIS class ‘A’ and ‘B’ equipped vessels. To the uninitiated ‘AIS’ receivers/transceivers are generally only found on commercial vessels and a few larger leisure vessels making it a ridiculous reference when 99.9% of the vessels in the Stour do not have AIS! That approach pretty much set the tone of the meeting but several major concessions were gained with follow up actions that will be helpful to us.
vi) The most useful item in the short term is that a straightforward and short document will be produced by the applicant that identifies all major ‘affecting factors’, that are currently contained within the many hundreds of pages of official assessments, proposals, and management studies where the data is effectively hidden. That document will be circulated to all of us who can freely re-distribute it for maximum awareness.
vii) That document will contain for example; Tonnage grown, areas covered, days and hours of dredger operation, movements and loading/unloading points (could be Mistley Quay), number of marker buoys, quantity of crab pots and how marked (whilst crab stocks are being removed ready for seed mussels), penalties for accidental infringement, methods of correcting activities that are outside any agreement reached etc etc.
viii) Finally, when that document is circulated and other issues are made crystal clear to all of us, there is now a clear undertaking by the applicants that the mussel bed proposal will not go ahead unless there is broad approval for it.
That brings us up to date as briefly as I can, and I will circulate anything further as it become available.