Dolphins 'distressed' by water scooters near Falmouth
Conservationists have issued a warning after water scooter users were photographed "intimidating" a pod of dolphins off the coast of Cornwall.
"They were circling around and around, distressing the pod," a witness said in response to the incident on Wednesday.
"[It was] absolutely shocking, appalling behaviour," they said.
Disturbance by boats can affect dolphins' ability to feed, breed or nurture their young, the Marine Management Organisation said.
Intentionally or recklessly disturbing dolphins is a criminal offence and can incur a maximum sentence of six months in prison.
Local police were made aware of the incident near Falmouth Harbour, while the harbour master Mark Sansom sent a patrol boat out to offer the pair some advice.
Members of the public commented on the picture on social media, branding the behaviour "disgusting" and "sickening", and labelling the perpetrators "thugs" and "louts".
Dan Jarvis from British Divers Marine Life Rescue said: "You can see in the picture that there's a lot of high speed manoeuvring going on. The dolphins wouldn't have liked it and they would have been distressed.
"These creatures are protected by law. A crime may have been committed here, and ignorance isn't an excuse.
"There are clear guidelines freely available about how to act towards animals to avoid causing distress," he added.
"Its completely unfair that some people put their enjoyment first and think about the animals' welfare second."
According to the Wildlife Safe (WiSe) scheme, motor vessels should:
- Stay 100m away from the animals
- Avoid groups of mothers and young completely
- Switch engines into neutral if animals actively come over to boats