Environment Minister backs WDC to prevent dolphin disturbance

The charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is advising members of the public not to risk legal action by disturbing dolphins when lockdown ends this Easter and holiday makers flock to the UK’s coastline. Its call has been backed by environment minister, Rebecca Pow and the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU).

Plus, it’s encouraging members of the public to report wildlife crime to the police.

WDC says whales, dolphins and porpoises have been enjoying quieter waters around the UK but, as this lockdown ends and visits to the coast surge, the charity fears that dolphin disturbance incidents in the waters around the UK involving members of the public using leisure craft, jetskis, kayaks and paddleboards could increase. Of particular concern is the lack of awareness of the existing laws around disturbance by people using these craft, or who attempt to jump in and swim with dolphins in the sea.

Marine mammals are sensitive to disturbance, especially when they have young, are resting, feeding or socialising and many boat users and holiday makers simply do not know what the rules are, says WDC.

“Give marine mammals space to exhibit natural behaviour in their natural environment without harassment or disturbance,” says Kevin Kelly, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. “Keep your distance, show respect and be responsible.”

Prosecutions are rare, yet disturbance is a regular occurrence where the waters are busy and coastal wildlife is most accessible. WDC says its staff and volunteers regularly witness disturbance first-hand and receive many reports from concerned marine wildlife enthusiasts, which has prompted the awareness drive.

“Our key aim is to stop disturbance before it happens by raising awareness of the issues,” says WDC’s Katie Dyke.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively called cetaceans) which frequent our coastline are protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1994. This includes protection from disturbance (whether it be reckless or deliberate), harassment, killing and injury, with offences subject to a fine of up to £5000.

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