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Artificial Habitats To Bring Water Quality Benefits In Whitby

In the Yorkshire town of Whitby, work is underway to try to boost biodiversity and attract wildlife back to the area by installing artificial habitats. In February this year, work began on the installation of a living sea wall, rock pools and hanging fish shelters in Whitby Harbour as part of a wider project to improve the water quality of the River Esk.


The work is part of the Better Estuaries and Coastal Habitats (BEACH) Esk project. BEACH Esk is a joint initiative between the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Groundwork North East & Cumbria to revive the saltmarsh habitat of the Esk estuary at Whitby.

Saltmarshes are tidal wetlands found along coastlines where there’s low-lying land and a temperate climate. They provide habitats for a variety of wildlife and act as natural flood defences. They are also extremely effective carbon sinks. However, many have been lost as humans reclaim the land for agriculture, building or salt production.

The saltmarsh around the Esk estuary is an important area for wildlife. It is a migratory route for salmon and sea trout, and these fish support the rare freshwater pearl mussel that lives in the River Esk. There’s a lot of catching up to be done – after fish stocks dwindled in the area at the end of the last century, fishing in the river in the town was banned in 1997.

The work in the estuary is just a part of the wider BEACH Esk project, which includes interventions designed to improve water quality ‘from source to sea’. This includes working with farmers further upstream to keep livestock away from rivers, as well as planting trees and hedgerows, hedgerows, and creating footpaths and public access routes to enable people to enjoy and appreciate their surroundings. Further interventions include educating boat owners about the dangers of oil and fuel spills, and a public awareness campaign designed to educate people about why they must not pour fats and oils down the drain.

How BEACH Esk could help other environmental projects

The installation of the artificial habitats is a pilot project, designed specifically to provide environments in which estuary wildlife can thrive. It is trialling a range of artificial marine habitats to identify which are the most successful in encouraging the colonisation of marine life. The artificial habitats will be monitored by scientists at Hull University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences. If the pilot is successful, the findings will provide the basis for similar installations in other estuaries.

How your business can help

The water regulator Ofwat is encouraging everyone – individuals and businesses alike – to use their water well and treat it as the finite resource it is. The quality of the UK’s water is dependent on moderate quantities of water being available to dilute pollutants, and the more efficiencies you can make, the better the water quality will be.

As the UK’s leading independent business water supplier, we can help your business achieve water efficiencies which will save water and money at the same time as keeping the quality of the UK’s water as high as possible. Contact us today if you’re interested in switching your business water supplier or if you would like to get in touch about our other services, such as business water services or wastewater management.