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Today (April 14), South Wales Police along with North Wales Police, Gwent Police, and Dyfed-Powys Police launch Operation Seabird Cymru, a partnership initiative aimed at raising awareness of the sensitive wildlife along the coastline and how simple changes in behaviour can reduce pressures on animals.
The teams will be working alongside the RSPCA and Natural Resources Wales, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, RSPB and Welsh Government to work towards a greater understanding of the delicate wildlife ecosystems along the coast. The South Wales Police rural engagement co-ordinators will be patrolling the coastline on land, while the Marine Unit will do the same in the water.
The South Wales Police area spans around 100 miles of coastline including Gower, Porthcawl, Penarth, Cardiff Bay and many other tourist hot spots along the way, drawing thousands of visitors every year.
Whilst tourism is welcomed and very important to local economies, the rise in recreational activities taking place along the coast can increase pressure on important marine wildlife. Any recreational activity has the potential to disturb wildlife if not conducted in a safe and responsible manner, and with the increasing popularity of coastal visits, wildlife disturbance is a growing problem in a number of regions. Many areas of the Welsh coastline are part of the UK’s network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and are protected by national and international designations.
Over the summer months, South Wales Police will take part in a number of action days that will see officers from the Rural and Wildlife Co-ordinators visit businesses and engage with the public to raise awareness of the impact that recreational activities can have on coastal wildlife.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Gilmer said:
“We are fortunate to have miles of beautiful coastline in South Wales and an array of marine wildlife and seabirds who call it their home.
“I am delighted that we are launching Operation Seabird Cymru together with North Wales Police, Dyfed-Powys Police and Gwent Police.
“This will help protect habitats from wildlife disturbances and educate visitors to our coastline on how to behave responsibly around marine wildlife."
RSPCA National Wildlife Co-ordinator Geoff Edmond said:
“We want people to enjoy watching our marine wildlife but this should be done at a safe and sensible distance without disturbing the animals.
“Every year, the RSPCA’s wildlife centres have to treat and rehabilitate a wide range of wildlife - including seals and seabirds - which have been injured or orphaned due to human disturbance.
“For many tourists it can be surprising and exciting to see marine mammals, including seals and their pups which will normally rest on the beach at various times of year, as well as ground nesting birds which are usually resident between March to September. But as tempting as it is to approach them, we would respectfully ask that everyone stays at a distance and keeps their dogs on leads and under control.
“Our message is to ‘Observe, Don’t Disturb’ as people visit Britain’s wonderful coastline.
“If people have concerns about an animal, they should keep their distance and contact the RSPCA helpline on 0300 1234 999 (daily 7am-10pm).”
Rob Taylor, Wales Police Rural and Wildlife Coordinator said:
“This excellent initiative is a first for Wales and by the police and our partner agencies working together, we can provide the public visiting our coastline and sea the information they need, in order to do so safely and without disturbing our precious wildlife.”