Watching wildlife carrying out their daily lives and enjoying their natural habitat is a rare treat that many of us boaters may take for granted. Whether you are sailing in the Solent or boating down the River Wey, there are always a plethora of animal sights and sounds to enjoy.
The 8-12 June is Boating Wildlife Awareness Week, a chance for boaters to learn more about best practice when experiencing wildlife out on the water and how to best protect it too. The Green Blue, the joint environmental awareness programme between the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine, will be sharing advice and information throughout the week across their website and social media channels.
As regular water users, we have a duty of care to respect the wildlife that we encounter. We share the water with an amazing variety of marine life that often depend on the waterways as a safe place to feed and raise their young. Frequent disturbance from humans can disrupt an animal’s natural feeding times, increase stress levels and lower rates of reproductive success.
However, there are many ways that you can boat responsibly around wildlife, the presence of boats does not have to result in a disturbance to local animals. Firstly, always keep a watch for upcoming wildlife. The use of binoculars is integral to allowing boaters to still view wildlife whilst keeping a distance of at least 300 ft. away. This will help to minimise any unintended collisions and disturbance from the boat’s noise or wash – slowing down the speed of your boat will also help with this.
If you are able to maintain a slow and consistent course when travelling, then this will lower your unpredictability for nearby animals. This will then reduce their level of perceived threat and you may even be able to view the animal for longer. However, boaters must never try to follow or chase wildlife and should never get caught between a mother and it’s young. Approaching wildlife from behind should also be avoided as this can similarly be perceived as aggressive and predatory, therefore causing them unnecessary stress.
If you are exploring a new area of water, remember to research the wildlife that you may see before setting off. Learning about an animal’s behavioural habits, including feeding and resting locations and the times of the day that they undertake these activities will not only help you to react better if you encounter them, but it will also make your trip more interesting. At the end of your day on the water, remember to try to go ashore using recognised landing places to reduce risk to nesting birds on the shore and damaging shallow water habitats beneath foot.
To join in on the conversation, find out more about Boating Wildlife Awareness Week and to help raise awareness follow The Green Blue on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @TheGreenBlue and use the hashtag: #BoatingWildlifeAware. You can also visit The Green Blue website: www.thegreenblue.org.uk where you can find further information, guidance videos and activity sets.