Port Quin Seaweed Farm

David Collins, our Ecology Officer has commented for Cornwall Birds on the MMO consultation, 23 Feb 2024 as follows:

I am writing to express my concern about the proposed Seaweed Farm in my role as Ecology Officer for Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society. The Society is a registered charity with over 1,000 members.
Having considered the relevant environmental documents that were submitted with the application, I note that impacts on the Pentire Peninsula SSSI have been dismissed on the basis that both of the proposed seaweed farming areas are more than 500m from it. I assume this is on the basis that the relevant Impact Risk Zone for the SSSI is 500m. We do not support this assumption because the SSSI is important for breeding seabirds which will be feeding much further from the SSSI during the breeding season, including the areas proposed for this development.
The Pentire Peninsula SSSI is, amongst other things, designated for its breeding seabirds. The SSSI citation mentions Guillemot and Razorbill as species for which the site is important. We are aware that Mouls Island, which is the part of the SSSI closest to the proposed development, is of particular importance for both these species. It is also the only site in mainland Cornwall for small numbers of breeding Puffin. All three of these species will be travelling much further than 500m to find food for their young during the breeding season, and will be using the bay at this time as well as during other seasons. We would therefore expect the application to include consideration of the potential effects of the proposed development on these species. Should there be any negative effect on the feeding of auks as a result of the development, this would be detrimental to the status of the species within the SSSI.
Given the presence of the SSSI and the marine species it supports, we are surprised to note that there appears to have been no consultation with Natural England.
We are aware that there is limited information available on the effects of this type of development on seabirds in general. A recent paper (Corrigan, S; Brown, A.R.; Ashton, I.G.C.; Smale, D.A. and Tyler, C.R Quantifying habitat provisioning at macroalgal cultivation sites. Reviews in Aquaculture 2022; 14; 1671-1694) suggests that these sites may provide additional foraging for seabirds, but that they could be displaced due to construction and operation activities. Hence it concludes that the effects are uncertain – there simply isn’t enough information to know what the effects would be.
Due to the importance of this area for breeding auks, and the fact that the auk colonies are within an SSSI, we therefore request that the effects of the proposed development on these birds is properly considered before the planning application is assessed. Furthermore, we suggest that detailed consultation with relevant staff in Natural England is undertaken, as is required where a planning application has the potential to significantly affect species that are protected by that designation.