Jet ski riders who scared off seals at Pegwell Bay are in trouble with the police. The seals, who are having their pups, were forced to run into the water after the jet ski riders made loud sounds and went fast near the river mouth where the seals rest.

This disturbance, which has been going on for weeks, has been told to Kent Police’s Rural Task Force, under Operation Seabird, a project to stop the harassment of marine wildlife.

Kent Wildlife Trust’s Protected Area Warden, Nina Jones said: “This is not just rude behaviour, the actions of these jet skiers have a big impact on the welfare of the seals, who are having and raising their pups.

“The seals rest on the sandbanks at Pegwell Bay but more disturbance may make their mothers go to the water, stopping her from feeding her pup or maybe leaving it.

“It’s important that we respect and share the shore with these protected animals.”

Seals can be bothered easily and what may look like normal behaviour, like getting in and out of the sea, can have a big impact on the marine mammal, making them struggle to gain weight or feed their pups. More disturbance may cause injury from running away, they may cut their bellies on sharp rocks, scrape their skin on sand or pull out their claws.

The increase in paddle boarding is a risk to seals as they can get close to animals quietly. Paddlers can help seals by paddling slowly and steadily, not stopping at a seal site, or getting too close. Never try to take a seal selfie or feed or follow them. If a seal is looking up and looking at you a lot, you have bothered it, so leave the area slowly and quietly.

More boat tour operators offering seal experiences has made Kent Wildlife Trust ask companies to do WiSe training a scheme about watching marine wildlife in a wildlife-safe way. Operators learn how they can do tours safely without affecting wildlife which is very important for seals.

So far, one tour operator in the area is WiSe trained with more wanting to join, and the trust wants more business to do the course.

Nina added: “One of our Wilder Kent 2030 strategy goals is to get more people to do more for nature so we can protect 30% of Kent’s land and sea and by working with tour operators, the paddle board community and those enjoying our coastline for fun we are all helping nature in our county do well.”

Besides protecting seals, people going to the coastline are asked to think about how they affect nature. Sites like Sandwich and Pegwell Bay are a home for birds who travel and often nest on the ground. This means they are easy to disturb, especially from dogs. Those walking dogs in the area are asked to keep their pet on a lead always to protect these precious habitats.

People can learn more about watching seals safely on Kent Wildlife Trust’s website.

By Ed

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