Devon has many valuable and beautiful estuaries, particularly along its southern coast. There are twelve in all plus the Tamar which is shared with Plymouth and Cornwall. A range of nature conservation and landscape designations embrace these estuaries. In addition, they have long been the focus of commerce, fishing, transportation settlement, and, more recently, recreation and tourism.

In common with other parts of the country, estuary partnerships have been established in many cases to manage this range of competing and, potentially, conflicting interests. The longest established of these is the Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP), which has been in existence for over 20 years, coordinating management of the estuary on behalf of local authorities, government agencies and conservation bodies and providing a contact point for local communities of the estuary. The Partnership seeks to conserve and enhance the estuary’s special nature and promote sustainable economic and social activity by managing competing demands and addressing any conflicts as they arise, to ensure that interests and activities are harmonised. This partnership is hosted by Devon County Council and currently benefits from a dedicated Estuary Officer position.

Other estuaries with active partnership arrangements include:

  1. The Tamar – this extensive, cross-border estuary complex is managed through the Tamar Estuary Consultative Forum, which is hosted and serviced through Plymouth City Council.
  2. The South Devon Estuaries – the five estuaries (or, more accurately, drowned valleys or ‘rias’) that lie within the South Hams – the Dart, Avon, Erme, Yealm and Kingsbridge – are managed collectively through a dedicated officer employed by the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  3. The Teign – arrangements for which are coordinated through Teignbridge District Council.
  4. The Taw-Torridge – the management plan for north Devon’s only estuarine complex is coordinated through the North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
  5. Seaton Wetlands – although lacking any estuary-wide arrangements, East Devon District Council manages an impressive suite of estuarine habitats within the tidal sections of the Axe Valley.