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Do not disturb! 

Dolphin Anyone caught disturbing wildlife can now be prosecuted.

There is no better place to be than on the water if you want to catch a glimpse of the UK’s amazing marine wildlife. But it is important to be aware that anyone caught disturbing wildlife can now be prosecuted. Recent changes to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Amended, provide increased protection for wildlife.

Ignorance is no excuse

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as shown by a recent case of two skippers whose actions were linked to the death of a juvenile inshore bottlenose dolphin in the Camel Estuary, near Padstow in July 2013. The skippers admitted reckless disturbance which, under the Act carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.

In this instance, the skippers were dealt with by ‘restorative justice’ and forced to complete a Wildlife Safe (WiSe) course on how to view marine wildlife safely, responsibly and within the law.

Protect and enjoy

Appreciating our marine wildlife is part of the pleasure of taking to the water but it is important to know what to do when you encounter wildlife to stay on the right side of the law and enjoy the experience.

The Green Marine Wildlife Guide, a digital guide for iPad and iPhone, provides interactive touch based illustrations of marine wildlife together with an interactive map of the UK revealing what marine wildlife we can expect to see around the coast through the year.

For instance, from May onwards the gentle giant of the basking shark can be seen in waters off the UK’s south west coast as they head up north for their annual migration. Whilst in the North East grey seals are a common sighting.

Top tips

The guide provides a series of top tips for spotting marine wildlife and importantly guidance on how to avoid disturbing or hurting them.

Clear guidelines help with what to do if you see a marine animal including advice on how much time you should spend near the animals and how much clearance you should give them.

The golden rule when watching marine wildlife is to be aware of any change in their behaviour which may signify disturbance.

To explore the digital edition of the Green Marine Wildlife Guide, download the free ‘RYA Books’ app from iTunes and touch the ‘Catalogues & Brochures’ to find the Guide.

The Green Blue is the environment initiative of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and the BMF (British Marine Federation). Visit The Green Blue website.

Bottlenose dolphin image: Charlie Phillips

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