Police have issued a warning to wild swimmers after a person caused a shoreline full of breeding seals to stampede into the water at Newburgh Beach.
A video obtained by environmental group Ythan Seal Watch at the end of last week shows the swimmer making their way across the mouth of the River Ythan.
Swimming between a number of seals already present in the water, the unidentified person spooks the animals on the beach and causes them to rush away at once.
The site is well-known for the large number of seals that gather to “haul out” on the shore of Forvie National Nature Reserve, where they are able to rest, moult or breed.
In a post on Facebook, Ythan Seal Watch emphasised that the wild swimming incident constitutes harassment of the wildlife and added: “It is the visitors’ responsibility when carrying out activities like this to research where they are doing them and what protection wildlife has.”
The group also drew attention to the unique danger of swimming around a group of breeding seals while dressed entirely in black.
‘Keep your distance from marine wildlife’
The spectacular sight of hundreds of seals at Newburgh Beach draws many visitors, leading to a difficult balancing act between human sightseeing and wildlife welfare.
In June, a seal was pictured on the beach with a Frisbee trapped around its neck – with experts warning that it could eventually die if it was not freed in time.
Wildlife crime liaison officer PC Hannah Haywood said: “It is understandable that people want to watch the wildlife which lives in our waters and on the coastline but it is vitally important that this is done responsibly without disturbing the animals.
“We would recommend anyone watching marine wildlife keep their distance and follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code.
“This offers practical guidance for everyone who watches marine wildlife around Scotland, whether they are on the shore or at sea – and will help you stay within the law.
“We would encourage anyone witnessing a suspected crime to contact us.”
Police can be contacted on 101, or using the Contact Us form available on their website.
Anonymous reports can also be made to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.