On 14th April 2022 Dyfed Powys Police along with the RSPCA, Natural Resources Wales and the other Welsh police forces are taking part in Op Seabird; a national campaign which aims to engage and educate people about the sensitivities of the coastline, and how simple changes in behaviour could reduce pressure on our unique wildlife.
So, what type of wildlife disturbance happens on the Welsh coastline?
Collisions: A vessel collision is any impact between any part of a watercraft and a live marine animal. Collisions often result in physical trauma or death of marine wildlife.
Noise disturbance: Excess noise can disturb wildlife causing detectable changes in behaviour. It can also interfere with an animal’s ability to communicate, navigate, avoid danger, and find food, ultimately impacting the health and survival of many marine species.
Visual disturbance: There is evidence that marine animals negatively change their behaviour in the presence of human activity. Any activity has the potential to cause visual disturbance and can cause distress, reduced resting time and avoidance or aggression behaviours in wildlife.
Sergeant Matthew Langley of the Rural Crime Team said “Op Seabird is an initiative run between police and partner agencies across Wales. The aim of Op Seabird is not that of enforcement but of engagement and education with the public to ensure they enjoy our beautiful coastline safely and responsibly. Last year we saw a large increase in disturbance offences mainly due to a certain celebrity walrus who came to holiday in Tenby! It is important for the public to also be aware that by disturbing wildlife they may be committing offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”
If you’re out and about along the coast, we’re asking you to remember that any activity has the potential to cause disturbance to wildlife, if not conducted in a responsible and safe manner. To reduce disturbance to sensitive wildlife whilst on the water, we advise the following:
Keep your distance: Keep a safe distance (at least 100m) from the cliffs, rafting seabirds and marine mammals, allowing space for animals to move away from you.
No-wake speed: Motorised vessels and personal watercraft should travel at a no-wake speed within 300m of the cliffs or shore.
Avoid enclosed spaces: All motorised and non-motorised vessels should avoid entering caves and travelling through archways where breeding seabirds or resting seals are present.
Be aware: If an animal’s behaviour changes in response to your presence, move away quickly and quietly.
As well as educating and raising awareness through social media channels and local media; we will be working with partner agencies to hold “action days” throughout the summer months. These action days will see uniformed officers at launch sites and around the Dyfed Powys coast. They will visit businesses, educate and engage with the public to raise awareness of the problems some recreational activities can cause to our coastline wildlife.
So, if you’re heading to our beautiful coastline this summer, please have fun! But also, be mindful of the wildlife around you. You can keep up to date with all the work we, and other partner agencies are doing by following #OpSeabirdCymru on social media.