Cornwall’s marine life has exploded into action again recently with reports of dolphins surfing in St Ives Bay, minke whales breaching off Penzance, basking sharks feeding near Porthgwarra, and rare Risso’s dolphins bow-riding alongside boats returning from the Isles of Scilly.
Wildlife charity Cornwall Wildlife Trust is now calling for people to send in their sightings of these creatures in order to help in their conservation and protection, and contribute to the better management of our seas for future generations.
Cornish waters are amongst the best in the whole of the UK when it comes to marine life, particularly for cetaceans – the group that includes dolphins, porpoises and whales. 21 species have been recorded in our seas, including humpback whales, pilot whales, sei whales, pygmy sperm whales and even orca (killer whales).
Porpoises are regularly spotted feeding off our rugged headlands, and common dolphins can be seen in pods of over 100 only a few miles offshore. Cornwall is also home to an important inshore pod of bottlenose dolphins that reside and feed entirely in the waters off our coastline.
A rare Cornish bottlenose dolphin. Photo: Dan Murphy
Caz Waddell, Acting Marine Conservation Officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: "Our Cornish marine life is putting on a host of fantastic displays across the county at the moment! We want to encourage anyone who has been lucky enough to see any of these incredible creatures to send in their sightings to us.
"You can record what you see at www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/marinesighting and we can then use this information to better understand these wonderful creatures and work towards their conservation and protection."
Cornwall Wildlife Trust, who protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places, want to reiterate how important it is that these creatures remain safe and happy in our waters.
Sadly, alongside this spate of recent activity comes the almost inevitable bad news that once again the Trust has had reports of marine wildlife being harassed by boats and other water users.
It is therefore crucial that people follow codes of conduct when watching marine wildlife to ensure they do not cause accidental harm or disturbance to these wonderful creatures.
A basking shark feeding. Photo: Paul Naylor
Dolphins, porpoises and whales are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), which states that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass any of these animals.
A conviction carries the maximum sentence of £5000 and/or six months imprisonment.
Caz Waddell added: "The key message is Learn, See, Respect and Report. It is really important that everyone using our waters familiarises themselves with the codes of conduct for marine wildlife, and learns how to behave around these creatures.
"This will ensure we can all enjoy watching these beautiful animals whilst knowing we are not causing them harm or stress. Give these creatures the respect they deserve, and finally of course, don’t forget to report what you see."