Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 18:02 UK

Row over seahorse anchor-free bid

Seahorse with tracking tag
Seahorses were first identified at Studland Bay about 10 years ago

A conservation watchdog has denied plans to "name and shame" boat owners accused of threatening the largest UK seahorse colony by mooring in a bay.

A voluntary anchor-free zone is soon to be introduced to Studland Bay, Dorset, where at least 40 seahorses live.

Wardens will photograph and note the boating activity. But locals fear vessels will be named on the internet.

Natural England, behind the move, said it was "not interested" in boat names and they would not go on the internet.

Next month, six large buoys will mark out the no anchor zone with flags on top of the 100 metre (328ft) by 100 metre (328ft) area.

Robin Hilton, clerk of Studland Parish Council, said: "We think that what will happen is these wardens will identify the boats that anchor and cause them problems."

'Not interested'

Tim Lightbown, landlord of the Bankes Arms Country Inn, said: "Anyone that comes in to the control zone will be named, their boats will be put on the internet."

But Richard Caldow, Natural England maritime advisor, said boat names would not be published and stressed: "I'm not interested in the names of boats.

"I want to know how many there are and where they are going, particularly the level of boating in the voluntary no anchor zone which will hopefully be none.

"There might be the odd individual who out of spite or grievance will choose to go on there but it will be well marked so if anyone does it will be intentional."

Protected species

He also said the photographs would not identify boats and names.

The Seahorse Trust has recently begun tagging the animals in an effort to track and monitor their existence.

Last year, seahorses were registered as a protected species for the first time.

Steve Trewhella, of the Seahorse Trust, welcomed the study but said a ban on anchoring was needed.

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