APEM has won a major contract to collect and analyse over 1,000 samples from the seabed in the eastern English Channel and off the south coast, for eight marine aggregate operators with licensed interests across the region.
Offshore surveys organised by APEM will collect 1,060 ‘grab’ samples of the seabed. The samples will then undergo analysis at APEM’s marine labs in Letchworth and Edinburgh, with one of the largest and most experienced marine benthic lab capacities in Europe.
The results of the project will be used to establish baseline data for macrofauna and sediments as part of a new regional seabed monitoring plan to be implemented by the marine aggregates industry.
The surveys are being coordinated by the British Marine Aggregate Producers Association (BMAPA), which represents 11 of the leading producers of marine aggregates in the UK. Marine aggregates consist of sand and gravel that is dredged from the seabed and used primarily in the construction industry and for coastal defences.
The industry dredges over 20 million tonnes of marine aggregates each year from an area of 0.011 per cent of the UK seabed.
Recently a new approach to monitoring the seabed’s response to dredging was proposed by CEFAS (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). The Regional Seabed Monitoring plan was devised, initially involving five areas of seabed around the UK, through a project that is being jointly funded by Defra, the Marine Management Organisation, The Crown Estate and the marine aggregate industry.
APEM is providing the monitoring and analysis work on two of these five areas in a contract running from summer 2014 to spring 2015.
Quality assurance will be provided through the National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme (NMBAQC), which is also co-ordinated by APEM.
APEM head of marine labs and NMBAQC scheme co-ordinator, David Hall, said: “I am delighted to see the auditing services of the NMBAQC scheme being used to quality assure biological data for such a significant project. The scheme already provides this service for the UK’s CSEMP and WFD programmes.
“I hope that the marine aggregate sector’s regional plan is the first of many projects to show a commitment to producing high quality, comparable biological data.”
APEM director of aquatic science, Dr Adrian Williams, said: “It’s great that our marine team’s reputation for excellence in benthic ecology continues to grow. We are proud to be providing our expertise for the acquisition of baseline seabed data for the aggregates industry.”