WDC staff and volunteers regularly witness disturbance first-hand and receive many reports from concerned marine wildlife enthusiasts. Of particular concern is the lack of awareness of the existing laws around disturbance by members of the public using boats, jet skis, or who attempt to jump in and swim with dolphins in the seas around the UK, which has prompted us, partnered with the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, to release a new disturbance awareness video.
We want to prevent disturbance before it happens by raising awareness in a fun and memorable way. Everyone can relate to feeling hungry when a phone call interrupts dinner, or tired and grumpy because the kids woke you up two, three, four times in the night. Whales and dolphins can feel the same way if we disrupt their natural behaviours by getting too close!
Whales, dolphins and porpoises need to feed, rest, socialise and reproduce to stay healthy and keep their populations strong. If you get too close to these activities and disrupt their natural behaviour, you might unwittingly cause changes to an individual’s breathing, hamper their ability to feed or stop them getting the rest that they need. Mothers with calves are particularly vulnerable.
Disturbance can include any human activity that changes the behaviour of a whale, dolphin or porpoise and where one lone boat may have only a small effect, repeated visits can lead to significant and extended problems. Disturbance can even drive whales and dolphins away from the places that are important to them and these cumulative effects are increasing as our seas get busier with commercial, recreational and tourism activities.
Watching whales, dolphins and other marine mammals in their natural habitat is a special experience. A good encounter is one that is enjoyable for you and the whales or dolphins so it is always important to respect their space. It’s #RudeToIntrude
Alice Walters, Policy Officer, Whale and Dolphin Conservation
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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