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Campaign urging people to be responsible around coastal wildlife launched by RSPCA and police in Wales

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A campaign to stop people behaving irresponsibly near marine animals such as seals, dolphins and nesting birds is being rolled out in Wales.

Operation Seabird is a joint campaign between the RSPCA, all four Wales police forces – North Wales Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police and Dyfed Powys Police – and other partner organisations such as Natural Resources Wales.

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The first action day on 14 April saw RSPCA officers patrolling areas in Colwyn Bay/Angel Bay and Abersoch with North Wales Police, and aimed to raise awareness and educate people about how vital it is not to disturb the mammals and birds of Britain’s coastal areas and to enjoy watching them from afar.

RSPCA animal rescue officer and wildlife officer Ellie West took part in the first action day with Dyfed Powys Police in Pembrokeshire.

The RSPCA say that sadly, common disturbances to wildlife include speedboats, kayaks and paddleboards deliberately getting too close to seals, dolphins and cetaceans. This often causes stress to the animals and can result in the females suffering spontaneous abortions or babies being abandoned by their mothers.

The animal charity say that other issues include dogs off leads disturbing nesting birds or seals, litter including plastic rings severely injuring seals, wild camping beach barbecues and camp fires causing significant damage on the beach, and quad bikes or 4x4s vehicles riding over nesting areas.

There have even been incidents where beachgoers have got too close to wild animals for the sake of a selfie. Users of boats and other watercraft can also cause severe injury to some marine mammals if they collide with them while trying to watch them.

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Sergeant Matthew Langley of Dyfed Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “The aim of Op Seabird is not that of enforcement but of engagement and education with the public to ensure they enjoy our beautiful coastline safely and responsibly.

“Last year we saw a large increase in disturbance offences mainly due to a certain celebrity walrus who came to holiday in Tenby! It is important for the public to also be aware that by disturbing wildlife they may be committing offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.”

RSPCA inspector Andy Broadbent said: “We want people to enjoy watching our marine wildlife but this should be done at a safe and sensible distance without disturbing the animals.

“Every year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres have to treat and rehabilitate a wide range of wildlife – including seals and seabirds – which have been injured or orphaned due to human disturbance.

“While last year, we may remember Wally the Walrus who visited Pembrokeshire for a long period of time. It was really concerning when we had reports of some people trying to get close to him by using jet skis or paddle and surf boards. It wasn’t in his best interest and we always urge people to act responsibly when they see any marine animal.

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“If people have concerns about an animal, they should keep their distance and contact the RSPCA helpline on 0300 1234 999 (daily 7am-10pm).”

Operation Seabird is urging people visiting Britain’s coastline to maintain a significant distance from wildlife, both at sea and around the coast; never get close enough to touch animals or take selfies; read signs and stick to paths; and keep dogs on leads where instructed to do so and keep dogs under control at all times.

As the holiday season begins, high visibility patrols by the RSPCA, local police forces and wildlife groups will target coastal areas where people and animals interact, such as beaches with seal colonies, dolphins swimming offshore or sites with nesting seabirds.

Sergeant Liam Jones of the North Wales Police Rural Crime Team said: “Op Seabird Cymru seeks to engage key partners to work with the police throughout Wales to educate those people who use our coastal areas and seas and to enable them to enjoy our wildlife safely and without disturbance.

“Over the years we have seen an increase in people using our coastal areas and being unaware of the effect that they can have on coastal birds and mammals if they act irresponsibly. A disturbance can have a devastating effect on certain species and their habitats and with simple education and engagement we can help prevent it from happening.”

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Dog attacks can kill seals, as well as posing a risk to the dogs themselves from bites that can become infected from the bacteria that live inside a seal’s mouth. Seal pups disturbed by curious people will move off into the sea, using valuable energy which they need to survive and grow. Birds such as little terns travel thousands of miles to breed in very specific UK coastal points.

They have one annual chance to nest and produce young, but if disturbed this opportunity is lost, and due to their ground nesting habit they are particularly vulnerable to dogs, and careless feet.

Andy added: “While our beautiful beach and coastal areas are great to have fun in, they are natural habitats and breeding grounds for many native and migratory animals, including several species on the endangered list. We humans share this space, and we can easily and unwittingly cause disturbance, fear, and distress.

“For many tourists it can be surprising and exciting to see marine mammals, including seals and their pups which will normally rest on the beach at various times of year, as well as ground nesting birds which are usually resident between March to September. But as tempting as it is to approach them, we would respectfully ask that everyone stays at a distance and keeps their dogs on leads and under control.

“Our message is to ‘Observe, Don’t Disturb’ as people visit Britain’s wonderful coastline.”

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Environment

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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Environment

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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