Multi-agency plea to watch wildlife responsibly

Common seal resting on rocks at low tide. ©Lorne Gill

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Wildlife disturbances at Mull hot spots have prompted a multi-agency appeal for better behaviour from visitors.

NatureScot, Police Scotland and Mull and Iona Ranger Service have come together to urge tourists to enjoy watching wildlife responsibly.

Increased numbers of tourists flocking to see and photograph the island’s wildlife have led to concerns that ground-nesting birds, otters, and seals in particular are being negatively impacted at some of the most popular locations.

Examples include reports of photographers disturbing otters which could stop them feeding and in extreme cases lead to holts being abandoned.

Concerns have also been raised about terns and oystercatchers at locations including Port Na Ba at Croig, Langamull, Killiechronan, Scallastle Bay, Salen Bay and even the Island of Glas Eilleanan in the Sound of Mull which is designated as an Special Protection Area (SPA).

Salen Bay is also a haul-out site for harbour seals which have been seen being flushed off the rocks by overly-enthusiastic visitors, which can lead to pups being crushed in the
resulting stampede or separated from their mothers.

Visitors are being reminded that in most cases the law affords species protection from disturbance, or harassment in the case of seals, and offences can attract fines of up to £40,000.

Sally Weaser, NatureScot’s Operations Officer for Mull, said: ‘Wildlife watching along our coasts is an amazing experience which can help more people connect to nature and provide a vital boost to tourism and local economies. However, particularly in busy and popular places, it’s crucially important to take care that animals and birds are not disturbed.

‘We’d encourage visitors to Mull and beyond to familiarise themselves with the Scottish
Outdoor Access Code and the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code which provide lots of tips and advice to help people minimise disturbance and stay within the law. Follow any local signs, give wildlife lots of space and move away if you spot any signs of disturbance.

‘It’s also vitally important that dogs are kept under close control, especially at this sensitive time of year when ground-nesting birds are breeding.

‘By enjoying wildlife watching and photography responsibly, we can ensure that the animals and birds that make this island so special continue to thrive.’

PC David Armstrong, wildlife crime liaison officer for Argyll and West Dunbartonshire Division, said: ‘While it’s great that people are taking an active interest in Scottish wildlife, unnecessary disturbance can have a severe impact on a species ability to survive, particularly when there are dependent young and the impact from disturbance is cumulative.’

Any incidents of disturbance should be reported to Police Scotland on 101.

Jan Dunlop, countryside ranger manager for the Mull and Iona Ranger Service, said: ‘We want to help our visitors enjoy what Mull has to offer without detriment to this
unique place and the wildlife that lives here.’