Dozens of dolphins, orcas and humpback whales have been disturbed or endangered in Scottish waters this summer by people in boats and on jet skis, it has been revealed.
Incidents investigated by Police Scotland include boats causing problems for dolphins at Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth and at Aberdeen Harbour, and jet skiers disturbing dolphins near Broughty Ferry in the Firth of Tay.
A number of incidents on Shetland include boats near busy marinas or harbours travelling too fast or too close to pods of orcas, and one photographer in a boat circled a pod of the killer whales too closely and then split the pod,
Members of the public have also raised concerns about boats going to close to humpback whales seen recently at St Cyrus National Nature Reserve.
The Scottish Government-led Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) say that several incidents this summer have endangered not only dolphins, orcas and humpback whales but also boat operators.
PAW Scotland represents a range of bodies concerned with the prevention of crimes against wildlife, including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland.
Sgt. Andrew Mavin, Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator, said: “We’ve received several reports of boat operators getting far too close to cetaceans, sometimes apparently following them to get a good photograph.
“These animals are extremely powerful and people shouldn’t get too close for obvious reasons. There is also a possibility of injury to the animals themselves from boats and other marine craft.
“There are clear guidelines available for watching marine wildlife, so ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
“I encourage anyone witnessing a suspected crime to contact police Scotland on 101 as soon as possible. Details of the boat or craft are essential to help us identify the operator.”
Dr Fiona Manson, Marine Ecology Advisor with SNH, added, “I’d encourage anyone visiting the coast for wildlife watching to read the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code. It provides clear advice on how to act responsibly to keep within the law – and also on how to get the most out of your wildlife watching.”
PAW Scotland recommend the best way to watch cetaceans is by going on one of many dolphin and whale watches around the country, run by RSPB, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and others featuring WiSe (Wildlife Safe) accreditation.