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Complainant Name:
Captain Alex Gibbons

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Daily Telegraph


Captain Alex Gibbons complained to the Press Complaints Commission about an article reporting on seahorse habitats in Studland Bay, Dorset. In the complainant's view, the coverage contained a number of errors, including claims that Studland Bay is home to the largest breeding colony of native seahorse species in the UK and that boats anchoring in the bay had destroyed local eelgrass beds. The complainant believed that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.


The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the amendment of the online article to include the complainant's response to the assertions in the piece. The following paragraphs were added:

"Captain Alex Gibbons, speaking for the Studland Bay Preservation Association and the boating community, said there was no risk to seahorse habitat and a Marine Conservation Zone was unnecessary. He said: ‘In 2009-11, the Crown Estate and Natural England undertook a scientific survey of the Studland Bay seagrass meadows. Its final report, published in June 2012, stated that there was no consistent evidence of boat anchoring impacting the seagrass habitat at Studland Bay.'

Capt Gibbons put Studland's colony of visiting spiny seahorses at between six and ten per year but said the numbers could vary from year to year, adding that the one pair of short-snouted seahorses recorded in the summer of 2008 did not appear to have returned.

He cast doubt on the claim that Studland's colony was the largest. ‘Seahorses are found all around the UK coast,' he said. ‘Local fishermen believe that Poole Harbour has larger colony than Studland Bay which is considered a seasonal offshoot of the Poole colony.'

Capt Gibbons added that 10 seahorses that were tagged and recovered in 2009 were not recovered the following year, ‘therefore it is not known if seahorses reoccupy territories held in previous breeding seasons'."

Date Published: 26/09/2013

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