Safe Dolphin Watching
Following reports of people in a RIB chasing a group of dolphins off the south coast of Cornwall recently, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the British Diver Marine Life Rescue are reminding the public to behave responsibly around marine wildlife.
Harassment can cause severe distress and make animals change their natural behaviour. In the worst case, it can lead to serious injuries, amputations and even death due to propeller strike.
Joana Doyle, Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says, "We share our waters with a wealth of impressive marine wildlife, including dolphins, seals, basking sharks, whales and turtles.
Bottlenose dolphins by Colin Speedie
"No-one would willingly wish to disturb or harm them, but by being too eager to get a good view, this can be the end result. We've seen far too many marine animals with terrible injuries caused by boats or jet-skis and it's important that people make themselves familiar with the do’s and don'ts when they encounter these animals, and that they abide by the law."
Dave Jarvis of British Divers Marine Life Rescue explained, "Many marine animals including dolphins and basking sharks are protected by law, so it’s very important to treat them with respect and keep your distance. It is an offence to disturb dolphins and basking sharks and to do so intentionally or recklessly can result in a prosecution."
Earlier this year, two men from Folkestone were found guilty of harassing a dolphin and were fined £350 and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid community work.
Dave continues, "We feel that this successful prosecution will pave the way for other cases to come to court. We recommend that, if dolphins approach your boat or bowride, maintain a slow, 'no wake' speed and don't change your course until they move on. Never chase dolphins in an attempt to make them bowride."
"Keep your distance and don't go closer than 100m (200m if there are two boats). No more than three boats should be in the area at any one time and no-one should spend more than 15 minutes near the animals."
"It's also essential that you don't drive head on to, or move between marine animals, particularly dolphins, as you may scatter or separate them and this could be lethal for very young animals that may become separated from their mothers. You could also seriously injure, or even kill, them."
"We don't want to spoil people's enjoyment of the sea, but we urge them to think about the impact their actions may have on marine wildlife, for example, never throw rubbish or contaminants into the sea and, for your own safety as well as theirs,
To help vessel users stay within the law, the Wildlife Safe (WiSe) Scheme has produced a DVD called 'The WiSe Way to Watch Wildlife'. Cornwall Wildlife Trust has some free copies available for sailing or other watersports clubs, so please contact me at Cornwall Wildlife Trust on 01872 273939 ext. 207 to obtain a copy".
The public are encouraged to help protect marine animals and any suspected harassment incidents should be reported immediately to the Devon and Cornwall Police.
last updated: 23/07/2008 at 10:13
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