Dolphin disturbance concerns at Chanonry Point hotspot on Black Isle prompt marine campaign supported by Ullapool Sea Savers and Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in light of explosion of interest in paddle boarding, kayaking and 'wild' swimming
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THE famous dolphins in the Moray Firth are facing a new marine threat - the surge in popularity of paddle boarding, kayaking and sea swimming.
In recent years motorboats were at times the scourge of the population of bottlenose dolphins as they foraged for salmon or mackerel close inshore.
But now it is an “explosion” in popularity for taking to the often dangerous currents and racing tides in cheap wetsuits, boards or canoes that is causing marine conservationists concern.
It is also not unknown for people to try and swim with the dolphins, even in the dangerous waters that can be experienced off the Black Isle in dolphin hotspots such as Chanonry Point near Rosemarkie.
This has led a group of conservationists to mount a publicity campaign in an effort to curb pestering of the sensitive cetaceans by uninformed pleasure seekers.
Campaign spokeswoman Sarah MacDonald-Taylor, Avoch, said: “We have launched an anti marine wildlife disturbance campaign for the Black Isle, in conjunction with Ullapool Sea Savers and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, (WDC) and this week we met interested parties at Chanonry to discuss the situation.
“This included Dan Sutherland, our local wildlife crime officer, Charlie Phillips the full-time field officer with the WDC, reps from Highland Council’s access rangers and local volunteers.
“We are seeing a rise in dolphin disturbance including attempts to swim with dolphins and further publicity is much needed.
“Previously there has been concern about sight seeing boats getting to close, but the local operators are very good at following the code of conduct regarding getting too close to dolphins or other cetaceans, and we want, the boarders, kayakers and swimmers to do the same.”
Ms MacDonald-Taylor, a member of Avoch and Killearnan Community Council, said that there is also a serious safety issue involved too.
Despite their smiley-faced image, she said dolphins are capable of becoming aggressive at times, such as now when mothers are nursing calves, when males in the pod can be protective, and similarly during the mating season.
Ms MacDonald-Taylor added: “It is quite a difficult situation because Chanonry is known as a good dolphin spotting area.
“Everyone seems to want to swim board or paddle, and they can get so much closer.”
She added that the RNLI is also concerned that people entering the sea at Rosemarkie are not able to spot the warning notices just along the coast at Chanonry with its at times very challenging conditions.