Hovercraft helps map Northumberland coast habitat

The hovercraft at Holy Island.

The hovercraft at Holy Island.

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A hovercraft is helping carry out vital surveys off the north Northumberland coast.

The Environment Agency vessel – called Salix – is at Holy Island, where officers are carrying out annual mapping surveys.

They are assessing the extent of sea grasses and areas of opportunistic macro algae around the coast – important areas of habitat for sea life.

The hovercraft has been used in other areas of the country to assist in mapping important areas of habitat.

Skippered by Paul Kennedy, marine officer for the Northumberland, Durham and Tees area, is among a handful of specially trained officers able to carry out this important habitat survey.

He is out in low waters in the area after working in conjunction with Natural England.

He said: “We used to carry out these surveys on foot previously, but now these time consuming surveys will be completed much quicker and more accurately – and most importantly with minimal damage to these important areas of inter tidal habitat.”

Mick Donkin, team leader for the sampling and collection team, said: “With the use of a hovercraft, we’re able to make much better use of our survey time and plan the work to maximize the area we’re able to cover.”