Wildlife disturbance can be a crime

 

We were all shocked to hear of the incident (link to BBC article) at Padstow in the UK’s River Camel estuary in July 2013, where numerous boats were interacting with a pod of bottlenose dolphins repeatedly for several hours. This resulted in one of the juvenile dolphins being fatally hit by a boat.  The police have made a plea for anyone with information to contact them.

Some good has to come from this terrible incident, so it is a timely opportunity to reinforce safe and respectful conduct to boat owners and operators, and anyone out on the water. UK Legislation exists to avoid disturbance to our marine wildlife. The UK’s regulator, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), states the situation very clearly:

“It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a porpoise, dolphin or whale and it is also an offence to deliberately disturb any cetacean (dolphins, porpoises and whales) in a way that may impair their ability to survive, feed, breed, rear or nurture their young.”

For more information see the MMO website.

What should you do if you think you see someone causing disturbance to marine wildlife?

  • Take photographs and/or film of the disturbance, making sure to capture details of the incident, the boat and the driver.
  • Make a note of the time, location and describe what you saw recording as many facts as you can.
  • If you think a crime has been committed, contact the Police.
  • Remember the Police can be very busy, but it is vital that you report the incident properly. Insist that you speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer to report the incident, stating you believe you have witnessed a wildlife crime incident.

If you want to go out on the water to view wildlife, choose a WiSe accredited operator. Visit the WiSe website and search the Google map or regional pages to find a local wildlife-safe boat operator near you.