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Reminder to paddleboarders to avoid saltmarsh to protect our birds

9:37 am, Tuesday, 14th May 2024 - 2 days ago


North East Lincolnshire Council and Humberside Police are reminding water sports enthusiasts that paddleboarding within or close to the saltmarsh in Cleethorpes where rare birds are nesting or roosting is restricted due to UK Conservation Law.

Despite regular messages about the importance of not disturbing the wildlife that relies heavily on the saltmarsh, paddleboarders have been photographed disturbing the birds at the weekend and paddling through the saltmarsh.

Saturday May 11 was World Migratory Birds Day celebrating the thousands of wetland birds which stop off along our coastline at this time of year. These birds depend on the Humber Estuary to refuel on their way north from southern wintering grounds (including Africa). They need to be undisturbed while feeding and roosting so that they can make the last leg of their journeys.

Like the rest of the Humber Estuary, the Cleethorpes coastline is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the rare and important species that residents and visitors share the area with. This includes Special Protection Area (SPA) status, as well being a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and European Marine Site.

Cleethorpes is also a hugely popular seaside resort and a place of choice for water sports’ enthusiasts. There are few other places where protected natural habitat is so close to a busy tourist destination, and that is why it is so important for people to be mindful of enjoying themselves but not at the expense of the wildlife.

Cllr Stewart Swinburn, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Transport, said:

“The Cleethorpes coastline and the species that inhabit it are very vulnerable to recreational disturbance. This not only means dogs or paddleboarders approaching and disturbing the bird species that live here, but other activities can cause serious damage too. Many of the plants that grow in this area are fragile, and damaging them, even by walking over them, can lead to erosion of the dunes and loss of habitat.

“Whilst we are mindful that local people and visitors to the resort should be able to take full advantage of our amenities, we are also guardians of the unique habitats on our shoreline that play such an important role in environmental well-being. Bird disturbance within the protected areas is an offence and people are urged to avoid waterborne activity in the saltmarsh, specifically paddleboarders and jet skiers, and for water users to maintain a distance from the saltmarsh, particularly at high tide, to avoid disturbing the birds.”

He continued: “We urge everyone to please take notice of the signs and steer clear of the protected areas to ensure that the birds and wildlife within them can not only survive but continue to thrive.”

Preventing SPA birds from feeding or roosting and causing them to take flight is a criminal offence and offenders can be prosecuted under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 .

PC John Chase, Wildlife and Rural Crimes Officer at Humberside Police said “The Humber Estuary is regarded as one of the most important estuaries in Europe for the wildlife it supports. Unfortunately, each year we receive a large number of reports relating to members of the public disturbing wildlife, in particular roosting, nesting and feeding birds that have in some cases travelled thousands of miles to our doorstep to feed and breed and are protected under UK Law.

“Due to issues with recreational disturbance, we launched Operation Seabird with our partners at the RSPCA, Marine Management Organisation and other key organisations. The focus of Operation Seabird is to protect our important coastline whilst also allowing members of the public to enjoy it responsibly, which is done mainly through educating the public regarding the need to keep their distance from wildlife to prevent disturbance. It’s important to note that, although education is the main focus of the operation, enforcement action and prosecutions will be taken where necessary.”

Beach visitors are asked to help protect the birds by following these simple steps:

  • Keep to the designated footpaths
  • Keep dogs under control
  • Anyone using the coastline for water sports, such as paddleboarding or jet skiing, must stay away from the salt marsh and sand banks.
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