Cardigan Bay is valued for both its special wildlife, and for the opportunities it provides for recreational activities on, in and under the water. During the summer of 2020 (after the end of the lockdown in Wales in July) and summer 2021 there was a rise in ‘staycations’ and a huge increase in the number of visitors to the coast. Although many enjoyed their visit with no noticeable impact on the protected species and habitats, disturbance incidents did increase including:
Water users (motor boats, kayaks and stand up paddle boards) approaching marine mammals too closely.
Water users travelling through rafts of resting seabirds and getting too close to their cliff nesting sites, sending the birds into flight.
Disturbance of seals that have hauled themselves onto the rocks to rest.
Disturbance of seal pups by people wanting a closer look, to take photos or even ‘selfies’ with the animal.
Signs of disturbance:
Seabirds – heads bobbing, wings flapping, alarm calls.
Too late! – The birds take flight, losing rest time, eggs and chicks are vulnerable to predation and getting knocked off their ledges.
Dolphins and porpoises – moving away from the vessel, tail slapping, leaping, taking longer dives, grouping together, group splitting apart.
Too late! – The animals are moved off a feeding area, or lose important resting and socialising time.
Seals – If they lift their head and look at you – you are too close!
Too late! – The seal returns to the water to feel safe, shortening rest time and they may injure themselves in the rush. In the summer months, pregnant females are especially vulnerable to disturbance.
Due to the size of the Cardigan Bay SAC, we are asking both members of the public and our stakeholders to make us aware of these issues. Please help us to manage the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation by letting us know of any recreational activities that you see that you think might be causing disturbance to wildlife. The form can be completed anonymously. Thank you.
Photographs by David Cunniffe