Be steady and predictable on the water this season and you might get to enjoy even more wildlife.
Jane Swan, The Green Blue Project Manager
There is nothing that causes a stir of excitement on board more than spotting a dolphin on the bow wave.
At certain times of the year you may also be lucky enough to come alongside gargantuan basking sharks as they journey from the south west through Cardigan Bay, along the Isle of Man and Strangford Lough and on to the west coast of Scotland.
From May to September, they are at the surface, mouths agape, often in a feeding induced trance and this is when they are most vulnerable from water users. And not forgetting the UK’s incredible seabird colonies of kittiwakes, gannets, northern fulmars and Manx shearwaters, to name just a few, in key locations such as St. Kilda and Skomer Island.
Just last month, a humpback whale was spotted off the shore near Brixham causing crowds to gather. The clear advice was for people not to take to the water for their own safety as much as the well-being of the whale.
The interest in large (and small) creatures in the wild is understandable but they are just that, wild. You probably would not try to get too close to a wild elephant or hippopotamus, but the gentle nature of these ocean creatures does not make them any less dangerous, or for that matter any less apprehensive of, and troubled by, our presence if we get too close.
The recently launched Green Wildlife Guide for Boaters is the latest addition to The Green Blue’s suite of handy leaflets, and it is designed specifically to advise boaters on how to get the best experience out of their wildlife encounters by acting responsibly and cautiously to minimise the risk of disturbance while keeping participants and their boats safe.
With striking and subtle illustrations created by Pete Galvin, the key message to boaters who find themselves close to marine wildlife is to think speed, and be steady, predictable, quiet and cautious. And this is the rule of thumb whether you spot something in the distance, something pops up on the port side, you use a smaller craft that can reach shallower depths or your passage takes you by seals hauled out on rocks or colonies of roosting birds on the cliff edge.
Do not outstay your welcome if you take a moment to enjoy the experience, do not chase or follow to get a better view and think about what might be above, alongside and underneath your boat.
Disturbance can be caused by noise, proximity, wake and erratic movement, and most marine species are protected by legislation that makes deliberate disturbance an offence.
Taking care around marine wildlife is as much about looking after you, your crew and your boat as care for the animal itself. Keeping steady, slow, predictable and ultimately respectful of the environment around you might even mean to get to see a little more this season.