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5.2 Poole Harbour

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5 2 Poole HarbourSite description

Poole Harbour in Dorset is one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Its ecological value is recognised by its designation as a Ramsar site, Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and surrounded by a Special Area of Conservation (for Heathland). Poole Harbour supports commercial fisheries (particularly for shellfish), port operations (including for international passenger ferries) and is also an important recreation and tourism destination.

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Focus of study

This study focused on generating new data for birdwatching, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayak/canoeing and jet/waterskiing.

Despite the sector’s importance, detailed assessments of recreation and tourism are lacking. The objective was to provide information to support recreation management, particularly in terms of ensuring continued use and dealing with conflicts (between groups and to address bird disturbance affecting the status of the Special Area of Conservation).

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Key stakeholders and their involvement

The study was led by Dorset County Council and the Dorset Coastal Forum. The Poole Harbour Commissioners, Poole Harbour Aquatic Management Plan Steering Group, National Trust, Environment Agency, watersports groups / businesses,  Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Dorset Wildlife Trust were the main additional stakeholders, who were consulted prior to the survey to discuss key issues, supported survey implementation, and provided feedback on the results.

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5 2 0  Poole   Poole Harbour (Rush Hour)   Sue Sieger   Poole TourismApproach for Ecosystem Services Assessment

An online travel cost survey (advertised primarily through social and print media) was used, with additional multicriteria analysis and supporting questions to allow wider consideration of respondent preferences. A separate study was commissioned to provide participant numbers through field counts, using trail monitors in bird hides (deployed for 80 days) and 55 boat-based transects across the harbour.

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Summary of main results

546 responses were received to the online survey. Results suggest an annual spend (on travel and local expenses) of £3.1 million across the six activities considered. Birdwatching contributed over 60% of this, due to the high number of participants. Other elements of the survey showed that a decrease in water quality was likely to most significantly affect users continued participation, in contrast to multicriteria analysis which suggested that wildlife was most important to users enjoyment of the harbour.

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Use of results

The results have been presented at stakeholder meetings, and were well received: 75% of attendees thought the results would be useful in raising awareness of the condition and value of the harbour, and 87% thought they would be useful in supporting management decisions and informing policies. To date, the study has fed into the draft Bournemouth and Poole Sports Strategy and spurred the creation of a Poole Harbour recreation forum. The results are also expected to inform Poole Harbour Aquatic Management Plan review in 2016 and Poole Harbour Commissioner’s wider policies for managing recreation, and also to be used by tourism boards, local authorities and national governing bodies.

Examples of lessons learned

The online survey method was selected to reflect limited resources and proved effective, although a larger sample size would have been preferred to make better comparisons between groups. The level of engagement with local and national user groups for publicising the survey was key to the response rate. Stakeholders found both the monetary values and additional information on wider preferences useful for management. The counts data was not fully adequate, as it should have included the winter period (adjustments were made based on national data).


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