Friday, August 11, 2006

Man on jet ski, charged for endangering dolphins lives

A JET skier is to be reported to the procurator fiscal following complaints he was spotted close to a pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Conservationists say the incident highlights the dangers reckless jet skiers pose to Scotland's endangered dolphins, already at risk from pollution and entanglement in abandoned fishing nets.

Grampian Police were contacted following the incident in June when the 20-year-old man was seen near dolphins in the water off the Banff coast.

Police say no dolphins were injured.. However conservationists say the creatures are easily disturbed by loud noises.

Constable Dave Mackinnon, wildlife crime officer, said: "The alleged offence comes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for which there have been no convictions in Scotland to date."
The Moray Firth is home to about 130 bottlenose dolphins and the small population is regarded as vulnerable. It is the most northerly and largest group of the species in the world."

Mark Simmonds, director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "Whales and dolphins are air breathers and cannot simply dive away under the water and hide and they may not be able to out-pace or out-manoeuvre fast vessels. So we are asking boat users please not to chase them and to be careful when manoeuvring if these animals are near by."

Experts say solitary dolphins are particularly vulnerable to accidental harm from people because they often seek human company and can become increasingly friendly.

They often swim close to boat propellers - one vulnerable dolphin was killed in Portsmouth Harbour by a propeller strike earlier this year.

Mr Simmonds added that the noise of engines could disrupt communication between mothers and their calves, leaving them confused.

"We urge people not to encourage this behaviour by feeding dolphins or swimming with them.
"Dolphins seeking human contact often come into dangerously shallow water and many are struck and injured by boat propellers.

"It is best for the animals, and for us, if we can observe them from a respectful distance and not enter the water with them," he added.

"Even friendly dolphins can become frustrated, frightened or angry, and these large and powerful animals are quite capable of hurting us, just as we are capable of hurting them."

There are also major concerns that the dolphins could disappear as they may starve to death.
Conservationists say a lack of food stocks in the North Sea may further shrink the population.
The dolphin colony is a popular tourist attraction in the area, contributing substantially to the local economy.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"