Marine life

By James HorePORT developments in the River Stour and River Orwell could have a “significant, adverse impact” on the estuaries and their marine life, it has been claimed.

By James Hore

PORT developments in the River Stour and River Orwell could have a “significant, adverse impact” on the estuaries and their marine life, it has been claimed.

The Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee gave its evidence yesterday at a public inquiry into the £300million Bathside Bay container port plan for Harwich.

The inquiry is looking into an application from Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited to develop a new deep-water container facility next to the town's international port.


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It is claimed the scheme could lead to 772 new jobs and generate £50m a year for the local economy.

Robert Blyth, a marine environment officer for the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee, said there was concern about the impact dredging from the scheme could have when combined with the effects from existing port developments.

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“The port developments currently proposed for the Stour and Orwell estuary, in combination with the existing developments, are likely to have a significant, adverse impact on the estuary and its marine species,” he warned.

“We believe the developers have been over-confident in their ability to predict future events and conditions within the Stour and Orwell estuary when changes in the natural environment are caused by a very wide range of factors, a great many of which cannot be incorporated into models of even the greatest complexity.”

Mr Blyth, who also spoke on behalf of the Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries Committee, said concerns included the direct habitat loss and disturbance and the “smothering” of invertebrates during dredging operations.

He added there were also fears the port development could affect vital beds of peacock worms in the estuaries.

Mr Blyth said disturbance to the sensitive species could affect juvenile crabs, shrimp and fish, including small bass, that hide and feed in the beds.

“We are very concerned in regard of the effects that any port development and associated sediment resuspension or recharging could have on these beds, which are possibly some of the largest in the UK,” he added.

The public inquiry will continue hearing evidence today and is due to finish in September.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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