Editor's note. Jetski's are now such a menace that for the first time in my life, I daren't venture outside the protection of the yellow buoys in St Mildred's Bay. Since I was seventeen, I've swum between the two bays - without seeing any seals until last month - but it's now far too dangerous. Incidentally our postman, Jason tells me he saw a seal while fishing from the promenade in Cliftonville this week. There are obviously more of them around.
The Thanet Coast Project is warning that the one of the biggest seal colonies in the south east of England is in danger of being broken up, if they continue to be disrupted by people.
It comes after reports that the seal colony off the Thanet coastline are suffering from increased disturbance from a range of boats which get too close to them. In recent weeks, this has included problems with RIB’s, catamarans, speedboats and jetskis.
The Thanet Coast Project, which developed the ground breaking Thanet Coastal Codes in conjunction with local people and stakeholders, is now working on an additional code on marine wildlife watching with local marine wildlife watching operators. It advises people to keep their distance and never go closer than 100 metres to seals or cetaceans, as they are easily scared. It also suggests that people should maintain a steady and slow direction and not chase or harass wildlife and avoid getting close to groups which contain mothers and their young. Rubbish should always be taken home and never disposed of at sea.
Tony Child, Project Manager of the Thanet Coast Project, said: “One of the south east’s largest seal colonies is under threat and all because people just don’t realise that a few simple changes to the way they act could make a world of difference. That was the whole idea behind the Thanet Coastal Codes when they were put together by those who use the coastline for both leisure and work. These voluntary codes encourage people to use our coastline responsibly and safely, while respecting the unique wildlife that lives there.”
He added: “Already this year there have been more reports of disturbance to the seal colony than in the whole of last year. That level of disturbance needs to be reduced dramatically, if we are to keep these magnificent animals off our coastline. That’s why we’re drafting an these guidelines to help avoid unintentional harm to marine wildlife and promote responsible wildlife watching at sea. We understand that people want to see the seals, but if you do, please use an organised wildlife excursion, such as Wildlife Sailings, Windrider RIBS from Ramsgate Harbour and the Sandwich Riverbus. That minimises disruption to our wildlife and yet still allows us to enjoy them in their natural settings.”
These marine guidelines complement the Thanet Coastal Codes. Full details of the Codes can be found at www.thanetcoast.org.uk .
1) The Thanet coast together with Pegwell Bay are internationally important asset for wintering birds and the marine life associated with chalk cliffs, caves, reefs, and sand dunes. They form part of various nature and geology designations collectively known as the ‘North East Kent European marine sites’. The Thanet Coast Project was established in 2001 to help co-ordinate priority action arising from the numerous wildlife ideas put forward in the Management Scheme for the marine sites and raise awareness of the importance of the Thanet coastline and wildlife.
2) A number of wildlife excursions operate around the North East Kent area, including the Sandwich Riverbus www.sandwichriverbus.co.uk/ 07958 376183; Wildlife Sailing www.wildlifesailing.com 01227 366712 and the newly formed Windrider www.windrider-rib.com 07931 744788 which operates out from Ramsgate harbour.