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From coast to canal: How to safely navigate around wildlife

One of the many joys of spending time on a boat is the prospect of catching a glimpse of the local wildlife. Whether you are travelling down the Kennet and Avon Canal or sailing near Falmouth, nature always delivers a plethora of wild sights and sounds to enjoy. As boaters, we are often granted a closer view to the action than those travelling on land, so it is key that in those moments we boat responsibly around the approaching wildlife.

There are many ways that you can minimise your boat’s impact on 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 its 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.

Remember, 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.

The 7-11 June is The Green Blue’s 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.

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 Boating around Wildlife page on The Green Blue website.


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