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Marine disturbance in Cornwall triples in six years - Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Jet skis disturbing seals in a quiet Cornish cove, Image by Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust
Jet skis disturbing seals in a quiet Cornish cove, Image by Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust

Incidents of jet skis, motorboats and coastal walkers disturbing marine life have more than tripled in Cornwall since records were first collated in 2014. Cornwall Wildlife Trust are now urging members of the public to behave responsibly and admire wildlife from a distance when out on the water this bank holiday weekend, after receiving several shocking disturbance reports already this summer.

Research gathered from the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group, a collective of organisations aiming to tackle the problem of marine disturbance and harassment locally, shows disturbance steeply increasing in July and August every year. This coincides with the peak visitor season in Cornwall, with more and more people wanting to enjoy Cornwall’s beautiful coastline.

Coastal walkers have also been identified as the top cause of disturbance to seals and sea birds, whilst privately-owned leisure boats are the biggest threat to whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as ‘cetaceans’) in Cornish waters.

Ruth Williams, Marine Conservation Manager at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s great to see so many people enjoying our coastline and seas, but with stay-cations and the numbers of people visiting Cornwall this year we have seen a massive increase in recreational activity on the water, including jet skis, SUPs and boat traffic. We urge people to respect our wildlife, to give them space to breed, feed and rest, and watch quietly from a distance.”

In July, three jet-skiers were recorded by Cornwall Wildlife Trust Seaquest Southwest surveyors scaring dolphins and their calves away from their feeding ground near Newquay.

Ian Boreham, one of the volunteers who witnessed the distressing event, said: “Some friends and I had been watching a pod of twenty common dolphins in the bay when we saw a jet skier head directly towards the dolphins and stop on top of them. I have seen lots of good practice from those out on the water but have seen others who treat the bay like a race track, driving in a fast and unpredictable manner at speed. It’s really concerning that human disturbance is changing the behaviour of dolphins and other marine life in the area.”

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