Voluntary Zone has been in place since 2009 pending study

The RYA is urging boaters to observe the Voluntary No Anchor Zone (VNAZ) that has been set up in Studland Bay, Dorset as part of the ‘Studland Bay Seagrass Project’. The RYA says that it recommends that boats avoid anchoring in the area until a link between anchoring and a detrimental effect on seahorses has been prove, or otherwise. 

“Establishing a Voluntary No Anchor Zone (VNAZ) within the bay is a vital

part of the study, which we hope will demonstrate that recreational

boating activity does not have a detrimental impact on the seahorses in

the area.”said Caroline Price, RYA Planning and Environmental Advisor.

Studland Bay is shallow, sandy embayment on the south coast of England and is an important site for seagrass and seahorses, both of which are protected by law due to their relative scarcity around the UK.

The recent addition of seahorses to the list of protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act has led to concerns over the possible impacts of recreational boat anchoring and mooring on seagrass meadows in Studland Bay.


“The recreational boating sector has long been recognised as being able to self-regulate thereby reducing the need for additional layers of legislation. If the Studland Bay VNAZ cannot be demonstrated to work then it is possible that a mandatory no anchoring zone may be introduced as part of the MCZ process making it a criminal offence to anchor within it. The success or otherwise of the Studland Bay VNAZ therefore has implications far beyond the south coast of England” said Price.

The VNAZ is a small area (100m X 100m) located off South Beach, Studland and is marked by four yellow buoys (one on each corner) as well as two in the centre of the zone.

The VNAZ has been advertised through Notices to Mariners and the boundary coordinates are as follows:

Lat Long

SW 50° 38.609828”N 1° 56.343396’W

SE 50° 38.609782’N 1° 56.258541’W

NE 50° 38.663738’N 1° 56.258468’W

NW 50° 38.663784”N 1° 56.343325’W

The RYA has been involved in the Studland Bay Seagrass Project from the beginning and is a member of the Studland Seagrass and Seahorse Study Group which is an informal, non-statutory focus and discussion group formed of residents, local yacht clubs, environmental groups and other interested parties.