Here at The Bristol Port Company, we have our very own environment team that exist to ensure that we manage our 2,600 acre Port Estate in a way that allows both wildlife and the Port business to not only co-exist but to flourish.
The Port’s commitment to the environment is demonstrated through an ongoing programme of conservation projects which have achieved major improvements in the local Port environment over the past 25 years or so. Since 1991 we have planted more than 42,000 trees and shrubs, created 12 new ponds and established and maintained 260 acres of wildlife corridors. An environmental management plan is implemented for the Port estate and we work with interested parties to ensure, where practicable, the preservation and enhancement of a wide range of habitats and their associated wildlife. Past conservation projects include the introduction of water voles to the wildlife corridors around Royal Portbury Dock, a successful owl conservation programme and the creation of Great Crested Newt ponds and habitat. Quite recently, we worked with A Forgotten Landscape project and a local organic farmer to introduce sheep grazing onto our saltmarshes to the north of Avonmouth as a management measure to improve the condition and biodiversity of these important designated habitats. Our conservation programme will continue to evolve in the future.
As a Statutory Harbour Authority we take our environmental duties and responsibilities seriously. The importance of the coastal and marine environment of the Severn Estuary is recognised in its designation under international, European and national law. The Severn Estuary is the largest coastal plain estuary in the UK, with the third highest tidal range in the world, resulting in an extremely dynamic physical environment that shapes its ecology and sets it apart from other UK estuaries. Its extensive mudflats, saltmarshes and sandbank habitats support internationally important populations of over wintering migratory birds and its waters are home to over 100 different species of fish. We take account of these environmentally sensitive features in all our functions and we manage our marine operations in a responsible and sustainable manner. We also work in partnership with local authorities, regulators and nature conservation groups to help manage the estuary in a more integrated and sustainable way: promoting a better balance between environment and socio-economic interests.
We monitor our port and harbour area to support effective decision making, to minimise our impacts and to improve our understanding of the estuary. Regular surveys of the seabed are undertaken in our harbour area to monitor changes in depths and the movement of sandbanks. We also carry out a variety of ecological surveys both in the marine environment and ashore within the Port estate. These include annual surveys of overwintering wildfowl and waders feeding and roosting on the Port’s intertidal habitats, surveys of the estuary sediments in the vicinity of the Port and the animals found within them, and regular surveys of key plant and animal species within the Port’s wildlife corridors, including water vole, newts and breeding birds. In 2016, we undertook our first fish surveys within Avonmouth and Portbury Docks and their entrances. These quarterly surveys found a variety of different fish that are common in the Severn Estuary, including sprat, herring, bass, whiting, mullet, prawns and crabs, all of which were in good condition. The next winter fish survey is due to take place in February.
The Port also takes steps to reduce our carbon footprint and tackle climate change; monitoring and where possible reducing our consumption of resources. Up to 2/3 of the Port's electricity is provided by our three wind turbines and we are investing in more renewable energy sources for the future.
Keep an eye on our blog for further updates about our environment work.