A friendly wave but not too close from Falmouth Harbour’s Black Rock. Photo Falmouth Harbour
The wellbeing of marine animals in their interactions with human water users is the focus of government department DEFRA’s first Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code. Falmouth Harbour is the first harbour authority in the country to complete specific awareness training across its team.
With burgeoning recreational use of coastal waters from yachts, powerboats and jet skis to paddle-boarders, kayakers and swimmers the time was right for Harbour staff not only to be fully aware of best practice themselves but be able to impart that advice to others.
The Falmouth Harbour team has been trained by veteran marine environmental campaigner Colin Speedie through his Wildlife Safety (WiSe) scheme, with key messages including maintaining a 100m distance from any marine animals and being slow and quiet around wildlife.
“Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is an amazing experience but getting too close to marine life can and really does make them panic,” says Colin. “Our WiSe scheme is aimed at anyone who spends time on the coast and sea for work or leisure and it’s all about how to interact with marine wildlife in a safe and sustainable way – so we are really pleased and proud to be part of this development with Falmouth Harbour.”
The WiSe Scheme was launched in 2003, with the first course being held in Falmouth. Twenty years later it is fitting that Falmouth Harbour should be the first major harbour to gain WiSe accreditation for its staff.
“Falmouth Harbour has shown real leadership in recognising the need for awareness among staff surrounding their activities and their relationship with the public in regard to marine life, so necessary to preserve the natural wonders of the Fal and surrounding areas. This chimes well, too, with the new Marine and Coastal Wildlife Code launched so recently.”
Falmouth Harbour’s Environment Manager Vicki Spooner says training staff through the WiSe scheme has been invaluable in understanding how activities on the water can impact marine life.
“So many environmental issues are really difficult to find solutions for but this is an easy one we can all contribute to,” she says. “Through understanding and changing our behaviours slightly we can all make a big difference.
“As we are more aware of the issues we are more likely to be able to work with harbour users and, in particular, event organisers to inform and think about ways we can reduce the impacts on the fantastic marine life we are lucky enough to share our harbour waters with.”
Colin believes Falmouth Harbour’s early adoption of the WiSe scheme builds on a long-held concern within the Trust Port to look after its marine wildlife and environment.
He says, “Some years ago I witnessed Falmouth Harbour staff first-hand performing valuable and common-sense actions around distressed common dolphins right in the heart of Falmouth Harbour. Due to their exemplary actions, all the dolphins returned to their natural deep water habitat safely.”
Falmouth Harbour hopes with this increased WiSe awareness across the organisation – and with support from the maritime community – disturbance of marine life will be reduced to a minimum.
Vicki Spooner says, “Our response to incidents will likely evolve over time as we learn with fellow harbour users about how best to go about reducing disturbance. We will continue to apply this new knowledge to scenarios as they arise and we know other harbour authorities and ports intend to take up the WiSe scheme too – it’s absolutely the right thing to do and we would really recommend the WiSe course.”
For detailed information on the work and services of Falmouth Harbour, including updates and FAQs on environmental initiatives see www.falmouthharbour.co.uk or call the Falmouth Harbour team on 01326 213537. For more information on the work of WiSe visit https://www.wisescheme.org/
Common dolphins in Falmouth Harbour. Photo Colin Speedie, WiSe
The WiSe scheme is the UK’s national training scheme for minimising disturbance to marine wildlife. Its aim is to promote responsible wildlife-watching, through training, accreditation and raising awareness. The WiSe Scheme is a simple modular training course aimed primarily at wildlife cruise operators, ports and harbour authorities, dive and service boats, yacht skippers and sea kayakers, plus people participating in coasteering, stand-up paddle boarding and wild swimming. It also seeks to educate the general public who are keen to minimise their impact whilst on or near the water.