Recreational harbour operations and maintenance activities


Recreational activities in marine SACs

Some of the UK’s most important recreational harbours are located within marine SACs. The Solent and the south/south west coast of England in particular hold major commercially important recreational harbours. Other popular recreational areas for boating activities include Milford Haven, the south Essex estuaries, Solway Firth, Strangford Lough and the Wash and north Norfolk coast. In addition, there are smaller recreational harbours and marinas scattered along the length of the UK coastline, taking advantage of the many natural safe anchorages and sheltered harbours and contributing to the local economy. Although perhaps not well known for its recreational activities, Scotland’s west coast attracts cruising yachtsmen to its numerous natural anchorages, its attractive scenery, and its few harbours and moorings, including yacht harbours in marine SACs, such as Arisaig which is relatively popular for this coastal area. Other marine sites support little or no recreational boating activities, such as Papa Stour which is one of the UK Marine SAC Project sites.

In many cases, recreational harbours are not in a class of their own, with recreational use merging with other harbour activities. For instance, Cowes Harbour accommodates marinas, ferries, commercial shipping, ship manufacturing and gravel quays. The Hamble, although predominantly recreational, also includes fishing boats and yards that maintain all sorts of crafts. In Portsmouth Harbour, recreation sits together with naval installations and commercial shipping and fishing activity (Quinn BMIF personal communication 1998).

Different types of recreational activity occurring in a selection of marine SACs and an indication of the types of facilities and capacity of recreational harbours within them are shown in Table 4.

Examples of type and level of recreational activities occurring within ports and harbours in selected marine SACs

Marine SAC

Recreational activities

Recreational boating

Solway Firth 1

Sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, recreational fishing. 9 RYA affiliated sailing clubs

Sailing membership 800 + 500 visiting members

300 resident boats.

Plymouth Sound and Estuaries 2

Sailing, canoeing, rowing, windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, recreational fishing, power boating and scuba diving. 19 sailing clubs and 8 marinas,

Around 4,500 moorings.

The Solent (including the Solent Maritime SAC)3

Sailing, power boating and cruising, water skiing, jet skiing, rowing, windsurfing, diving, fishing.

Around 90 sailing clubs and 24 marinas,

Over 11,000 moorings and 8,000 resident berths,

Total boats over 27,000.

Information from: 1 Recreational user interactions report UK Marine SACS Project (UK CEED 1998), 2 Captain Gooder Queens Harbour Masters personal communication 1998 and 3 Dunbar et al 1997.

A survey carried out by Research Solutions Ltd., on behalf of the BMIF, estimated that as many as 4 million people take part in boating activities in the UK each year (1994). In the height of the leisure boom in the late 1980’s a detailed national survey suggested that by the year 2000, participants in water based recreation would increase from 4.88 million to 6.4 million (Leisure Consultants 1989). As a result it was thought that pressure on the marine environment may increase as demand for moorings and marinas grew. However, generally this rate of growth is not at present being realised in the UK where boating participation has been constant for a number of years (UK CEED 1998).

Recreational user interactions

The effects of recreational activities on marine SACs are being addressed in another of the UK Marine SACs Project reports Recreational User Interactions: Framework for reviewing and managing potential recreational impacts (UK CEED 1998 and 1999 in preparation). The study group will work along side governing bodies and recreational users to draw together best practice and research information on recreation in and around SACs. The Recreational user interactions report investigates the potential effects that may arise from the movement of recreational craft to and from harbours and marinas within and near marine SACs. The issues associated with water-based recreation that are covered in the report include the following:

  • engine emissions,
  • noise disturbance,
  • vessel wash from recreational craft,
  • antifouling paints,
  • sewage and other waste discharges,
  • disturbance to wildlife,
  • boat generated waves and erosion, and
  • the potential impacts associated with the provision of recreational infrastructure.

These guidelines do not seek to duplicate the work undertaken in the recreational task to identify and address the impacts of recreational activities in marine SACs. While some of the issues listed above are specific to recreational activities, those covered in these guidelines are relevant to the management and operation of commercial and recreational ports/harbours alike, particularly where port and harbour authorities are faced with managing a range of commercial and recreational activities together. These issues are therefore covered together in the following sections of the guidelines:

  • Section 3 Commercial port and harbour operations - vessel movements, vessel wash, noise pollution, safe navigation and user conflict, vessel management options and zoning, mooring and anchoring,
  • Section 5 Dredging - dredging of recreational harbours, and
  • Section 6 Waste Management - management of waste generated from recreational craft, including oil, sewage and garbage.

As the issues relating to the potential impacts of recreational harbour operations are covered elsewhere in these guidelines, the remainder of this section of the report focuses on the process of managing harbour activities in marine sacs and maintenance activities in port and harbours.

Harbour operations and plans and projects

Maintenance activities

Environmental effects of maintenance operations

Means of avoiding, minimising and addressing the potential impacts of maintenance operations


Good practice