News story

Whale watchers – keep your distance or risk hampering rescue efforts and committing wildlife offence

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is asking members of the public and wildlife tour operators to stay away from a pod of pilot whales off the coast of Essex.

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The 30-strong group of whales was seen off the Essex coast on Tuesday and has since remained in the area, and not gone further out to sea and so are at risk of stranding.

Any vessels navigating too close to the pod, such as recreational and wildlife watching boats, could be committing an offence and may be hampering urgent rescue efforts. Their proximity is likely to be causing further distress to the whales.

MMO Wildlife Officer, Claire Bowers, said: “‘Unless you are directly involved in the rescue or monitoring of the pilot whales please stay away from them. Additional vessel traffic and noise could make the situation worse and increase the risk of the animals becoming stranded.”

She added: “If you are operating in this area please ensure you take every action possible to avoid them. If you deliberately disturb these animals and do not make every effort to avoid them at a distance, you could also be at risk of committing an offence under EU and UK wildlife legislation.”

The MMO is liaising with rescuers to ensure any vessels travelling too close to the pod are identified, and could then be investigated further.

Published 20 November 2014