Footage of jet-skiers harassing dolphins has prompted the police to issue a public warning about this type of cruel and dangerous behaviour.
The incident happened close to North Shields Fish Quay, between North and South Shields, Tyne and Wear, on Thursday July 4. A witness at the scene has claimed the water skiers deliberately sped towards the pod of dolphins.
Footage shows the three water skiers getting worryingly close to the dolphins, sparking public outrage on behalf of these intelligent, sensitive mammals.
I am reposting this video as someone has suggested to raise it's profile rather than it just being in the comments of another post. This was truly shocking to watch and appeared a deliberate act as the pod was very obvious. They steered towards the dolphins and went straight for them where the last dolphin had only breeched seconds before. This was appauling behaviour and so so upsetting. Please feel free to share if that is possible from this group.
Posted by Andrea Blunt on Thursday, July 4, 2019
The upsetting footage was taken by a woman by the name of Andrea Blunt, who shared it on the North East Cetacean Project Facebook group, stating:
This was truly shocking to watch and appeared a deliberate act as the pod was very obvious. They steered towards the dolphins and went straight for them where the last dolphin had only breached seconds before. This was appalling behaviour and so so upsetting.
Acting Marine Sergeant Paul Spedding, of Northumbria Police, has since made the following statement:
Everyone has a responsibility to protect our wildlife and anyone found to be in breach of any laws will be prosecuted. It is illegal to harass, feed, chase and touch Marine mammals in the wild and we’re urging all water users to be vigilant and respectful.
If dolphins do approach you then maintain a slow, steady speed and refrain from turning back towards them. Keep your distance and never get closer than 100m and if you’re unsure of their direction then simply stop and put the engine in neutral.
Human interaction can have devastating effects on wildlife so we are reminding the public to enjoy from a safe and respectful distance so others can enjoy them too.
UNILAD spoke with Martin Kitching, who coordinates the North East Cetacean Project. This is a citizen science project which studies the distribution and abundance of whales, dolphins, porpoises and seabirds in the North East of England.
Kitching told UNILAD:
Bottlenose dolphins had been regularly in/around the mouth of the River Tyne for a few weeks leading up to the incident with the jet skis and their presence had been well publicised. It’s important that all users of the marine environment remember that it’s an offence to wilfully or intentionally disturb or harass the dolphins.
Dolphins will frequently bow-ride vessels but that’s their choice and very different to a jet ski appearing from behind them at high speed.
UNILAD also spoke with Katrin Lohrengel, monitoring officer for the Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project in New Quay, Wales.
Lohrengel told UNILAD how this is an issue of ‘increasing concern’:
Anthropogenic disturbance is an increasing concern for marine mammals, particularly cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) around the world. Many people are excited to see dolphins in the wild but often do not realise that their behaviour could be disturbing the animals –and in some cases is illegal.
Some people may try to elicit a bowriding (surfing the bow wave of a boat) response by driving straight at a group but this is dangerous to the animals and they will almost always react negatively to this behaviour.
Bottlenose dolphins are protected under the EU habitats directive and disturbing them is an offence, actively approaching dolphins is actually prohibited unless a specific license, such as scientists may use to conduct photo-identification, is first obtained.
Even in areas with strict codes of conduct, such as Cardigan Bay, an increase in boat traffic has shown to have long term effects on group composition and dolphin behaviour.
In addition to this, particularly in the case of fast moving vessels, there is also the very real possibility of serious injury to the animals. For this reason it is very important that recreational users follow a marine code of conduct to safeguard our marine wildlife.
Dolphins, porpoise and whales are given protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations 2007 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, according to Gov.uk.
It is against the law to harass, feed, chase or touch wild Marine mammals, and those using boats are urged to never get within 100m of them (this should be increased to 200m if another boat is is the vicinity).
Find out more about how to act appropriately around dolphins with the MARINElife Cetacean Watching Code of Conduct.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.