New guide on legal and ethical behaviour around marine wildlife | WWF South Africa

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New guide on legal and ethical behaviour around marine wildlife

Booklet offers guidance for operators of recreational vessels on how to behave around marine life.

While there is nothing quite like the thrill of encountering a whale or a pod of dolphins at sea, many seagoers are unaware that their attempts to get close to these mammals are probably not only illegal but also potentially damaging to the animals.

Now a new booklet provides legal and ethical guidance for operators of recreational vessels to help them understand the rules and how best to handle their vessels around whales, dolphins, sharks, seals and seabirds to be found in South African waters.

The booklet also serves as a useful field guide offering illustrations and detailed descriptions of some of the animals one is most likely to encounter at sea and what their common behaviours are.

It is the product of a sustainable marine tourism project recently conducted in the Plettenberg Bay area by the Nature’s Valley Trust in conjunction with Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.

Dr Gwenith Penry, marine mammal scientist and research associate with the Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, said the intention was to inform seagoers, not only about the rules but also about behaviours that could be disruptive and even damaging to marine life.

Legally, recreational vessels may not intentionally approach a whale or dolphin within 300m. If the animals approach a vessel of their own accord, the boat operator should move away slowly at a “no-wake” speed.

The research team also found that the approach speed influenced how the animals reacted. If operators drove at speed towards the animals, they tended to take a long, deep dive or change direction or the pod might split off into smaller groups. This is highly disruptive as the animals could be socialising or heading towards a feeding ground or nursing their young.

The booklet advises: “Get to know the unique identification characteristics and behaviours of our local marine wildlife. Understanding how they behave can help you to respect and share the ocean with them, and ensure they are not disturbed or harmed in any way.”

It also advises anyone who comes across an entangled animal to contact the local NSRI or port authority rather than try to free it themselves.

For more information on the study or to download the guide visit the Nature's Valley Trust website

 
A pod of common dolphins photographed near Plettenberg Bay where a study on boat-based marine tourism has been conducted.

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