Avoid potential prosecution when watching whales in Scotland this summer

With summer underway in the UK and sightings of whales and dolphins becoming more common, WDC is urging people to take care when out on the water and follow the newly updated Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code to avoid potential prosecution for disturbing marine wildlife.

Local waters in Scotland are a safe home for many whales and dolphins and the revised code encourages those people who do want to see them up close to either watch from selected points on land, or use an accredited boat operator to ensure such encounters are not at the expense of the health or welfare of these majestic marine mammals.

“Disturbing whales and dolphins is an offence and it can, and has resulted in prosecution by the UK Wildlife Crimes Unit under Wildlife legislation’, said Sarah Dolman from WDC. ‘Scotland is a great place to watch marine wildlife from land but many people are unaware of the laws around this issue.

‘We would like to see a UK-wide register of commercial marine wildlife operators to enable the best opportunities to ensure suitable operator training, enable outreach to each other and to customers, standardised data collection, and also to provide the opportunity for the sector to have a voice.’

WDC’s  Shorewatch volunteers have spotted 10 different species of whale and dolphin from coastal sites around Scotland this month alone. Along with Moray Firth favourites, the bottlenose dolphins, sightings of orca , humpbacks and even sperm whales are gaining attention in local communities and beyond.

The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code  (SMWWC), was originally launched in 2006, but has been updated to reflect changes in legislation and advances in technology. The code is complemented by a 62 page Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife which provides additional information about the creatures you are most likely to see in the seas around Scotland, along with practical guidance on responsible behaviour around these animals, including:

  1. Ensure that you understand what constitutes disturbance and best codes of conduct before you take out a boat.
  2. As thrilling as it can be to see a whale or dolphin from a boat, remember that other people will have the same idea and that targeted whales can quickly become overwhelmed by too much attention from multiple vessels, especially over time.  Be respectful of their privacy as well.
  3. Reporting an incident if you think a wildlife crime has been committed.

For more on whale watch, visit this page

Dolphin harrassment
Dolphin harrassment