Desperate photographer as bikers on water ‘plow’ seabirds in nature reserve
A North Wales conservationist said he was in disbelief when he saw a group of water bikers “plowing through rafts” of birds off the coast of Anglesey.
Ben Porter, who is also a photographer, said he “was in despair” when he saw four of the vehicles explode among the birds, some of which were endangered, near South Stack, an Anglesey nature reserve, on Thursday last, as North Wales Live reported.
In the aftermath of the incident, he posted a photo on Twitter that received hundreds of responses from people – many of whom called for greater regulation of boats and greater protection for seabirds.
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In his tweet, Mr Porter, 24, also said the four water bikes were “just yards from some of the main settlements on the cliffs.”
“How the hell are you doing?” ” he said.
The reserve is well known as a wildlife refuge for seabirds, including razorbills, murres and puffins.
Speaking to North Wales Live afterwards, Mr Porter, who lives on the Llyn Peninsula, said: “I was sitting on top of a cliff looking at the site, which is teeming with birds, when they saw them. When they got to the corner for the first time, they almost ran over the birds.
âSome may have dived underwater, while others flew off. When they approached the main settlements on the cliff face, they went down a bit and there wasn’t much. danger to birds in the water, but they risked disturbing the colonies on the cliff.
“My feeling was one of anger and frustration. There were a lot of young chicks and this is preventable and should not be happening.”
He added: âI know that the Pen LlÅ·n a’r Sarnau Special Conservation Area is developing a marine code and wants to engage with boat / water bike users around the Pen Llyn Special Conservation Area, but the controlling these things is so tricky. It is hopelessly clear that there needs to be greater control of this activity in such sensitive areas and times. “
He said he now plans to report the matter to North Wales Police – but he said there should be more regulation and education for people using such motorized devices.
Many people agreed with Mr Porter’s tweet, calling for tougher rules and penalties – some even wanted watercraft to be banned from environmentally sensitive sites altogether.
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One said: “They should be banned over large parts of the Welsh coastline”, adding “Wales needs to start protecting the waters better along the coast. I don’t understand how there is already has nothing in place. “
Another added: “They should be banned. They are dangerous to humans and wildlife, including life below the surface.”
Another tweet read: “It certainly doesn’t agree! Surely an exclusion zone around seabird colonies is overdue?”
One person has reportedly seen a similar incident before, saying, “We witnessed the same horrible behavior at South Stack on Sunday Ben and we felt exactly like you. It was disgusting.”
Ffion Llyr, Communications Manager for RSPB Cymru, said: âSouth Stack is home to large colonies of beautiful and important seabirds and the use of jet skis near these colonies could have serious consequences.
“If you spot any unsafe behavior, we ask people to report it to your Wildlife Crime Officer at 101.”
Currently in the UK, a person does not need a license to ride a water bike unless they are under the age of 16 when they may need a certificate of competency, according to marine-education.co .uk.
And many community leaders in North Wales are not happy with this, including Arfon MP Hywel Williams, who has spoken out on the issue in the past.
In October 2020, Gwynedd Council supported a motion calling on the UK government to bring forward legislation governing their use. At the time, Cllr Gareth Thomas, who was responsible for maritime issues, said: âOver the past few years, the number of complaints and concerns from communities regarding the unsafe use of jet skis has increased dramatically.
âAfter the lockdown period, we saw a further increase in these concerns as well as a fatal crash near the Gwynedd coast.
âUnfortunately, due to a lack of legislation, local authorities have very little power to control the use of these vehicles and several governments have failed to legislate and resolve this important issue. This concern is not unique to Gwynedd and the introduction of legislation would make it easier to manage the situation along the country’s coast.
âIt’s weird that there really is no regulation to control boats capable of traveling at speeds above 40mph by anyone of any age and without the need for training, insurance. or license at all. Simply put, what we want to see is that every watercraft must have a license and insurance before using it at sea and that all riders are tested on their ability. to use the machine and that their knowledge of the “rules of the road” has been tested. “
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An RSPB policy document on the issue, released in 2015, said the organization was aware of the “potential for jet skis and other forms of personal watercraft (PWC)” to cause disruption and even direct injury to people. wildlife.
The document said: âWhile we don’t want to see a ban on jet skiing, we want to see it managed well around sensitive areas for seabirds, including protected areas. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offense to intentionally injure or kill a wild bird or attempt to do so. This would directly affect any seabird intentionally struck by a jet ski.
âThere is no reckless provision in the law for these offenses, so it is important that potential violators are contacted by the police and informed that their actions, if continued, are likely to constitute an offense. certain species protected during breeding season, during nesting, and their dependent offspring are also prosecutable offenses under UK and EU law (under UK Wildlife and Countryside Act and UK guidelines ‘EU on birds and habitats). “
The Anglesey Council Marine Code also urges people using pleasure craft, including water bikes, to stay away from cliffs during the breeding season, March 1 through August 31, to avoid make unnecessary noise and “keep away from groups of birds resting or feeding on the sea.”
He also added: “The deliberate or reckless disturbance of any protected species (such as dolphins) is a criminal offense.”