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Blakeney harbour netting

Funded by a grant, NRT researched and surveyed fish species within the salt marsh surrounding Blakeney Harbour. Species such as eels, smelt, bass and sand eels are important for the marine and freshwater food chain, as well as the local economy and businesses.

Prior to this project, there had been little to no conclusive fish population surveys undertaken within Blakeney Harbour. Thus, conservation actions within the harbour, as well as in the connected riverine catchments (River Stiffkey and Glaven), have been limited.

The marsh and harbour offer an unusual habitat and provide the vital link between the sea and the Rivers Glaven and Stiffkey, offering potentially important nursery areas for several marine species such as sea bass, sand smelt and sand eels. Sea trout and mullet are also known to utilise the area, moving between the tidal and coastal waters alongside other over-looked species, such as smelt and flounder that are attracted by the freshwater inputs.

Surveying and educational sessions

Assisted by some very helpful volunteers, monthly surveys were conducted at high tide. 8 sites were selected within the harbour, representing a diversity of habitat characteristics.

Educational sessions also took place with local schools, where they learned about the importance of this unique environment in providing nursery areas for small fish, eels, molluscs, invertebrates, birds and mammals.


The findings indicated that a large myriad of species used this unique habitat including:

  • Sand Goby (Pomatoschistus minutus)
  • Sand smelt (Atherina presbyter)
  • Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)
  • Flounder (Platichthys flesus)
  • Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
  • Lesser Sand eels (Ammodytes tobianus)
  • Herring (Claupea harengus)
  • Common Goby (Pomatoschistus microps)
  • Sprat (Sprattus sprattus)
  • Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus)

Next steps

The full findings have been shared with partner organisations such as Cefas, IFCA, The Blakeney Harbour Association and The Environment Agency. In addition, this research has led to further work in collaboration with Cefas, investigating water quality in the harbour (see downloadable document).
Together with existing data, the results of this work will assist with the development of future environmental management and remedial proposals.

Having a clear picture of the species present within the harbour is fundamental to any future projects aiming to enhance populations and their habitat.

The surveys will identify the species that use the area at different times of year and investigate the possibility of improving their stocks. This information can and will be shared by all the partners within the intertidal zone to encourage cooperation and to add to the body of data available to assist in decision making on environmental management into the future.

The full findings are available for viewing by all partner organisations and any other interested person/s.


A huge thank you to Norfolk Community Foundation and Sheringham Shoal Community Foundation for your support and funding of this project.

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