A joint taskforce has launched a Code of Practice to protect Bottlenose dolphins near Aberdeen’s Harbour mouth, and provide guidance to vessels operating in the port.
The code has been developed by a joint taskforce who have come together as a result of increased interest in the dolphins. The group includes: Aberdeen Harbour Board, East Grampian Coastal Partnership, Police Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage; with expert advice from the University of Aberdeen, RSPB, the Sea Mammal Research Unit and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Aberdeen is one of the best places in Europe to view dolphins, with RSPB’s Dolphin Watch Project (partly sponsored by Aberdeen Harbour Board) reporting that visitors to Torry Battery have a nine in ten chance of seeing dolphins feeding near the city’s Harbour.
Guidance for vessels operating in Aberdeen
The guidance suggests boats maintain a steady course at the slowest possible speed, stay away from the breakwaters, avoid directly approaching the animals, avoid turning engines on and off, and never feed, touch or swim with the dolphins.
Patrick Jordan, Environmental Advisor at Aberdeen Harbour Board said, “We are very proud of the incredible diversity of wildlife in the Harbour. As stewards of this important habitat, we have a clear duty to treat its inhabitants with care and encourage other port users to do the same. The Dolphin Code will ensure everyone is made aware of best practices and keep the animals safe.”
Sebastian Cook, Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer at Police Scotland added, "Dolphins and other cetaceans (whales and porpoises) are European protected species and it is an offence to deliberately or recklessly disturb or harass them. The code is designed to help small boat crews avoid inadvertently committing any offences and ensure they can go about their business where possible, with minimum impact on the dolphin population, at Aberdeen Harbour."
Petrofac welcomes guidelines
Hugh Chisholm, Safety and Survival Training Manager at the Petrofac Training Facility, based in Aberdeen Harbour added, “As an operator of training vessels which frequent the harbour channel, Petrofac very much welcomes these new guidelines. The dolphins and vessels co-exist within Aberdeen Harbour very successfully, and this code provides formal guidelines to ensure that this relationship continues to flourish. Petrofac is always keen to promote environmental best practice, and in this case it not only protects the dolphins, but also protects our staff and trainees from inadvertently causing harm to these wonderful creatures”.
Aberdeen Harbour is visited by a range of marine wildlife, including bottlenose, white beaked and risso dolphins, porpoises, minke whale and basking sharks. It is believed that although primarily aimed at dolphins, the guidelines will benefit all of such wildlife visiting the harbour.
The code will be widely distributed to vessel owners, port users and stakeholders.
Adapted from press release by Cecilia Rehn