A PROJECT to restore critically endangered marine species in Essex estuaries has been awarded £2.5million.

The LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES project, led by Natural England, is designed to protect seagrass meadows.

The meadows, described as England’s most important underwater habitats, are a critically endangered EU red-listed habitat which are easily damaged and slow to recover.

They are threatened by anchoring, mooring and launching of recreational boats, as well as trampling from walkers and bait collectors.

The Essex estuaries – which include the Blackwater, Crouch and Colne – are special areas of conservation.

The area is one of five places in southern England which will see environmentally-friendly moorings and training to restore habitats.

Seagrass meadows stabilise the seabed, clean surrounding seawater and absorb carbon, helping to prevent climate change.

It has been estimated that seagrass around our shores can absorb and store at least as much carbon per hectare as trees in UK woodland.

These meadows are also havens for many marine animals, including seahorses, stalked jellyfish, and rare seaweeds.

Natural England boss Marian Spain, said: “We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy England’s rich coastal landscapes, and this £2.5million funding boost will help protect and restore critically endangered species and habitats as well as tackling climate change.

“This project is a win-win-win for the planet, for people who use the sea and for the marine environment by protecting the delicate seabed and restoring seagrass meadow, a vital carbon sink, as well as providing new places for boats to moor.”

The scheme has been awarded £1.5million from the EU’s LIFE fund and another £1million has been match funded from Natural England and the other partner organisations.

The project runs until October 2023.

The programme will directly train nearly 2,000 people to protect the habitat.