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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Dolphin tormentors face arrest
Dolphins
There have been numerous reports of people harassing dolphins
People caught tormenting dolphins and other sea creatures face arrest and possible prosecution under new laws.

Environmentalists in south west England are joining forces with police, harbour authorities and the RSPCA following numerous reports that boaters are harassing dolphins and basking sharks in estuaries around the Devon coast.


People actually don't seem to know what they are doing and they are ignorant of the damage they can cause

Jenny Glanville
Devon Wildlife Trust
Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which came into force this year, harassing sea creatures is a criminal offence.

But local boat operators in the area say dolphins naturally approach boats and the allegations of harassment are over-exaggerated.

The Devon Wildlife Trust said it had received numerous of reports of people circling and chasing sea life over the past two bank holiday weekends.

Jenny Glanville, spokesperson for the organisation, said: "In one instance we had a pod of dolphins with a calf and a boat seemed to go right over the top of it."

Ms Glanville said hire boats were a problem but there were also a lot of regular sailors who "should know better".

'Ignorant'

"I would say that it is not outright cruelty. People actually don't seem to know what they are doing and they are ignorant of the damage they can cause," she said.

But Debbie Roberts, who runs the White Sands Boat Hire company in Salcombe, said: "The dolphins will come up to a boat. They naturally do that. They follow boats up the harbour.


The dolphins will come up to a boat. They naturally do that.

Debbie Roberts
boat hire operator

"I would like to think that none of our boats harass dolphins and I don't think that people do. They sit and they watch and if the dolphins are frightened they will swim away."

People are advised to stay at least 50 metres away from dolphins or basking sharks, slow right down and not to make any sudden movements.

Dolphins may approach boats of their own accord but should never be pursued or circled.

Members of the public are urged to report any acts of harassment to the appropriate authority.

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