Police and wildlife experts join forces to protect marine mammals and seabirds

Whitby, North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire Police are working with wildlife experts to protect marine mammals and seabirds.

A new operation has launched to ensure dolphins, seals, birds and other animals on the coast of North Yorkshire and Humberside can go about their lives without disruption.

The Yorkshire coast is important for marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and seals. Their numbers are thought to be increasing, particularly in the Scarborough area, but they are vulnerable to disturbance from jet skis, kayaks, speedboats and other vessels.

Seabirds are particularly sensitive to disturbance, which can reduce their chances of having a successful breeding season, according to experts.

Operation Seabird is a high-profile initiative bringing together police forces – North Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police – and local authorities – Scarborough Borough Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council – alongside the RSPCA, the RSPB, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Flamborough Head European Marine Site Management Scheme.

The operation was developed following concerns that marine wildlife in the area was increasingly being disturbed.

PC Adam Marshall, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said:

It’s a real privilege to have such diverse marine wildlife visiting and making its home on our stretch of coastline. That’s why it’s so important we all do our bit to protect it. By keeping disruption to an absolute minimum, we can help these animals thrive, and ensure future generations can enjoy their presence too.

PC Adam Marshall, North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce

Operation Seabird is all about advising and educating people to behave responsibly around wildlife. However, North Yorkshire Police say they won't hesitate to take enforcement action if required.

RSPCA Inspector Geoff Edmond, National Wildlife Coordinator, said:

We are very fortunate that dolphins are now regularly visiting the coast, porpoises are seen regularly and we have a nationally important breeding seabird population in our area. We want to encourage everyone to enjoy seeing them, but when at sea people must maintain a safe distance and minimum low speed so they are not disturbed.

RSPCA Inspector Geoff Edmond, National Wildlife Coordinator

Marine mammals and seabirds have legal protection in UK legislation, specifically in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, and the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

Officers are keen to educate and advise people in the first instance – but will be enforcing any breaches of the legislation if required.

To avoid disturbing marine mammals:

  • Travel slowly and approach from the side, rather than head-on

  • Observe them from a distance (more than 100m)

  • Always allow space for the animal to move away from you and any other vessels

  • Enjoy their company for a maximum of 15 minutes

To avoid disturbing seabirds:

  • Travel at a no-wake speed within 300m of cliffs where birds are nesting

  • Keep a safe distance from the base of the cliffs (more than 100m)

  • If any birds respond to your presence, move away quietly

  • If you see groups of birds on the sea, slow down and go around them

If you witness significant disturbance to marine wildlife, you're being urged to report it by calling the police on 101.