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BPA: No New Restrictions on Dredging Without Credible Evidence

The British Ports Association has written to the UK Parliament Environment, Food & Rural Affairs select committee to express concerns over the Committee’s recommendations on dredging.

Last month the Committee wrote to Ministers with a series of recommendations including reviews of dredging activity, reviews of licence conditions, the ‘minimising’ of dredging until investigations are complete, and new dredging assessments. In their response, the Minister defended the current process for issuing dredge disposal licenses.

The BPA strongly welcomes the Government’s response and is calling on Defra to continue to defend the robust procedures already in place to assess and approve hundreds of dredge disposal licences. The Committee’s recommendations has been based upon the idea that there are two competing theories to explain the cause of the mortality event, one put forward by regulators and another by a marine scientist commissioned by the local fishing industry. The latter concludes that dredging activity may have had an impact.

Having reviewed a copy of the paper, which has not been formally published, the BPA is concerned that recommendations that could have far-reaching consequences for the ports industry are being made based on its conclusions. The BPA does not believe the conclusions reached in the paper are credible or even reflective of the results found by the researcher. The results in the paper suggest that over 5,000 dredge disposal events would have had to occur in a single day to have the impact stated in the report. The paper also contains a number of factual errors.

The BPA’s letter to the Committee offers to provide additional evidence on the importance of dredging to the UK economy and on its environmental impact.

We have become increasingly alarmed at some of the statements and recommendations that have been made based on what we believe is unconvincing or erroneous evidence. We are pleased that the Minister has defended the robust procedures that are in place and the expert advice available from regulators. We hope that Defra Ministers continue to back the Government’s own expert scientific advice.

Dredging is fundamental to the safe continued operation of UK ports which are in turn critical to UK logistics, energy, defence, and indeed fishing. No port dredges more than the minimum necessary to allow for the safe navigation of vessels, not least because of the cost. Dredging is a routine practice in most ports, nevertheless there are strong processes in place to protect the marine environment and activity is overseen by world-class marine scientists at various regulators and agencies.

The British Ports Association represents almost every fishing port in the UK and we sympathise with the fishing community that were impacted by this event and we hope the Government responds accordingly. We are keen to better understand the causes of this event but hope that this is done based on sound science. We have confidence in the Government’s process.

Mark Simmonds, Director of Policy & External Affairs