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'Human invasion' prompts calls to limit Ecrehous visitors

'Human invasion' prompts calls to limit Ecrehous visitors Photo: ITV Channel TV

Homeowners on one of Jersey's offshore reefs say a 'human invasion' has made them want to restrict the number of people who can go there.

Residents at Les Ecrehous are worried, not only for their privacy, but for the future of the surrounding ecology, after what they describe as a 700% increase in the number of boats visiting since 2011.

They say tourists are frightening seals and scaring nesting birds off their eggs, and it's an effect that marine conservation experts say could be very detrimental.

We have a little bit of a conflict developing because of this human invasion, which is not getting any less. Day by day, year by year, we see it on the increase, so since the introduction of the charter businesses - they started operating in 2011 - I think we've had a 700% increase in the number of charter boats coming out here.

– Ian Mitchell, Les Ecrehous Resident's Committee

The charter boat services pilot their boats safely on the way to the reef and every skipper is WiSe accredited.

While they ask their clients to be respectful and warn people where active nesting sites are, they say they have no control over what they do once they're on dry land.

The residents put up signs, asking visitors to be considerate, but now they want to introduce stricter guidelines, which could be policed.

Terns nest on Les Ecrehous Credit: ITV Channel Television

They have to think about who lives here most of the time and that's the wildlife. They come in May, these lovely terns, and then they breed and they breed several times over and we as residents like to protect the areas. We rope them off so that people fully understand that the birds have priority at this stage.

– Ian Mitchell, Les Ecrehous Resident's Committee
Boats moor at Les Ecrehous Credit: ITV Channel Television

The disruption to wildlife has been noted by marine conservation experts too.

Kevin McIlwee from Jersey Marine Conservation says he's seen a drop in the number of seals living in nearby waters and believes it's down to the increase in traffic.

The seal colony seems to have reduced in numbers, that disturbs me. In the past I've counted perhaps 12 or 13 seals including the bull seal.
Certainly there have been a lot less seals in this area, so there is an effect there. I'm told by my colleagues that the bird colonies have been affected as well so it is quite widespread really and that's got to be down to the amount of people that are moving into very sensitive areas.

– Kevin McIlwee, Jersey Marine Conservation