Saturday, September 06, 2008

Watching dolphins is fine...if not done too close!

SIGHTSEERS trying to get close to a pod of dolphins off a South Devon coast have been warned they could be breaking the law.

The RSPCA and environmentalists have fired a warning shot after reports the marine mammals were becoming 'stressed'.

About 35 craft surrounded five bottlenose dolphins in Hope Cove in the South Hams area on Friday.

Brixham Sea Watch said the mammals could have been 'seriously stressed' by the actions of the vessels.

Brixham Sea Watch were alerted to the dolphins' plight by a National Coastwatch lookout who was concerned for their welfare.

Dolphins are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Anyone recklessly disturbing them risks prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.

Sea Watch spokesman Lindy Hingley has monitored dolphins in the area for several years and said the creatures would have been 'seriously stressed' by the presence of the boats.

She said the organisation wanted to fire a 'shot across the bows' of sightseers keen to approach the pod.

RSPCA spokesman Jo Barr said: "We understand people are trying to get close to them on boats to take pictures, and the dolphins are becoming very distressed.

"We are urging the public to keep their distance and would remind them that under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal for any person to recklessly disturb a wild animal and this includes dolphins."

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"