As more people are visiting the coast and enjoying taking to the water, the potential of harm to whales and dolphins is growing, especially at peak holiday times. The new jet ski legislation will grant more powers to prosecute people for the dangerous misuse of the craft, which can have a lethal impact.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has been working to raise awareness of and reduce this threat, providing advice to the public on what not to do when in the water near whales, dolphins and porpoises, and what signs to look out for if they are disturbed.
For many people, encountering whales and dolphins while on the water is an amazing experience, but incidents of disturbance are increasing and many water users on jet skis, paddleboards or in kayaks are unaware of what the rules are or how to report incidents they do witness.
Volunteers with WDC’s Shorewatch programme, who have been recording the presence of whales and dolphins at sites around the shore for over a decade, are now also collecting data on disturbance to better understand where these incidents are happening in Scotland.
Dr Carla Boreham, campaigns and policy director, said: “UK seas are a special place for dolphins and whales, being home to more than 20 species, more than anywhere else in northern Europe. A good encounter is one that is enjoyable for you and does not harm the whales or dolphins.
“Whilst the new law changes around jet ski use are welcomed, we are calling for disturbance of marine mammals to become a notifiable offence in England and Wales so that official Home Office records are kept of these offences, enabling better understanding over time of problem hotspots and where to direct police resources.”
Public information on the issue can be found at https://uk.whales.org/our-4-goals/create-healthy-seas/watch-out-for-dolphins-when-you-are-on-the-water.
All suspected cases of disturbance should be reported to the police on 101. Report as a wildlife crime ask for an incident number to ensure that reports can be tracked and provide as much information as possible.