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A View From the Riverbank - reducing the cumulative environmental impacts of our paddling

In this blog, Nigel Mortimer, Estuaries Officer at South Devon AONB Unit shares some best practice advice on how we can help to preserve our previous marine habitats.

A joy of paddling and particularly with inflatable craft, is our ability to launch from almost any accessible bit of coast. In getting our craft down onto the water though, we sometimes have to cross over delicate coastal and foreshore habitats such as saltmarsh and at lower tides even seagrass – hugely important communities of life that are right in the news at the moment for their ecosystem services with Climate Change, the Biodiversity Emergency and recent COP26.

We just need to be a bit mindful of these special places and take a little extra care to leave them as we found them - by not dragging our craft over them and even avoiding them where we easily can. Yes, our individual launching footprint might be tiny but just consider for a moment how many of us paddlers there are out there … our collective impacts can add up cumulatively to something more significant, especially at popular sites.

Even once on the water, we should also be a bit mindful of what our actual paddles might be doing in the shallows – are we disturbing the very aquatic communities that we have the luxury of visiting at very close quarters? Habitats like seagrass meadows can support diverse jungles of marine life, hidden from sight by all their floating leaves (yes, seagrasses are flowering plants, not seaweeds) – paddle gently and within reason, try to avoid punting against the bed in such sensitive areas.

With our renewed awareness and focus on nature conservation and importance of blue carbon storage, we are likely to see greater conservation management and restoration of these special wildlife communities - we can and should, all do our little bit to help. Yes - we will see other water-users do far worse but we can help lead by example.

We are in such a privileged position to observe and notice things from – please do take an interest in what you see, your eyes and ears observations could help! A new patch of grass on open mudflats might be a return of dwarf seagrass that no one else has noticed … report it on https://seagrassspotter.org/ ; see a pollution incident, report it to the Environment Agency asap via their incident no. 0800 80760 – it’s in all our interests and with our exposure to the water, arguably ours more than most.