Reports that marine wildlife being harassed off Cornwall's coast

Bottlenose dolphin surfing photo by George Karbus winner of RSWT photo comp 2013

Bottlenose dolphin surfing photo by George Karbus winner of RSWT photo comp 2013

First published in News

Cornwall Wildlife Trust says that once again this year it has had several reports of marine wildlife being harassed and followed by boats and other sea users around Cornwall’s coastline.

The Trust says that it has seen dolphins surfing at Gwithian, minke whales breaching off Penzance, and the unusual looking Rissos dolphins cruising off Falmouth, however they are reminding water users to follow important codes of conduct when watching them to ensure they remain safe and happy in our waters.

Cornish seas are amongst the best in the whole of the UK when it comes to marine life, particularly for dolphins, porpoises and whales. Twenty one species have been recorded in our waters, including humpback whales, the incredible rare pygmy sperm whale, and the enigmatic pilot whale.

Porpoises are regularly sighted feeding off our rugged headlands in the fast flowing tidal waters, and common dolphins are seen in mega pods only a few miles off shore. Cornwall is also home to an inshore pod of bottlenose dolphins that reside and feed entirely off our coast in the southwest.

However this abundance of life means that people are keen to grab a glimpse and some are stepping over the line and harrassing the creatures.

Abby Crosby, marine conservation officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "The Trust runs a project called Seaquest Southwest which encourages the public to send in their sightings of marine life via our simple website www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/marinesighting.

"However, sadly along with these happy sightings comes some bad news. Cornwall Wildlife Trust has once again this year had several reports of marine wildlife being harassed and followed by boats and other sea users around Cornwall’s coastline.

"Although the general public do love our Cornish dolphins, some people seem to be unaware of the correct way to conduct themselves and in turn cause accidental harm and disturbance to these wonderful creatures.

"Dolphins, porpoises and whales are also protected by law, with the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 stating that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass any dolphin, porpoise, whale or basking shark.

"A conviction carries the maximum sentence of £5000 and/or six months imprisonment."

To help combat this issue of marine wildlife disturbance, Cornwall’s environmental organisations have joined forces to create the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group, which have developed a code of conduct to explain the best way of watching these animals safely if you encounter them at sea. This can be downloaded from www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/coastalcode.

Falmouth Packet:

Risso dolphin. Photo Niki Clear

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