Dolphins in Sussex and across the UK are wonderful to watch, but they are coming under increasing pressure from boat traffic as our seas become busier and busier.
It is therefore more important than ever to give our wild dolphins space when we see them. This is especially because at certain times of the year, mothers will be teaching calves essential ‘life skills’ such as how to look for food and communicate with other dolphins.
A cautious approach often also leads to the best encounters because the dolphins will relax and often approach the boat. If a dolphin does come up to your boat, maintain a steady direction and slow speed so that you can enjoy the viewing experience without causing any unnecessary stress to the animal.
In the UK, dolphins are protected by law under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, and it is a criminal offence to harass dolphins in the UK so it is very important that we respect their space.
If you see what you believe to be a harassment incident please report it to the Marine Conservation & Enforcement Team at 0300 123 1032, or your local coastguard.
Here are some tips to ensure a responsible encounter if you spot dolphins from a boat in Sussex or elsewhere:
Customers Expectations - ask the boat company in advance if they provide a short introduction about your trip e.g. what are you hoping to see, do they provide a health and safety briefing, what do they offer if you don’t see anything on your trip? (NOTE: you may not always see Dolphins when going on a trip, as they are wild animals).
Education - a good boat tour should always have a friendly and knowledgeable guide on board who can educate about the animals, and the local area. If you are bringing children with you, have a look on their website or ask the boat company if they provide any educational activities on the tour.
Research Opportunities - whale and dolphin watching boats provide an ideal platform for researchers to carry out pioneering conservation work on board, so that we can find out more about these incredible animals. If you are lucky, you may be able to meet a research scientist and find out more about their studies and how you can get involved.
Community Action - many dolphin watching companies often engage with the local community to spread awareness about the marine environment. If they have a visitor centre, find out if they sell any local crafts or artwork. Many dolphin watching companies also engage with conservation efforts, such as the creation of Marine Protected Areas.
We hope you enjoy your next trip or encounter seeing these incredible animals in their natural habitat: the open ocean.
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