Natural England has recently had some comment from beach users (taken up by the local press) in east Norfolk about kitesurfers disturbing grey seals. Seals, when hauled out on beaches, are startled when approached, and rapidly take to the water – this stresses the animals and uses up stored energy, which can be critical, especially during the breeding season when the mothers have to provide large quantities of energy-rich milk to the pups. (October to January in Norfolk, earlier in other parts of the country).
In this case, the seals were between a series of groynes, making them hard to see and avoid. Having had a useful discussion with the local kitesurfers, we suggest that keeping seaward of groynes where seals are known to be present would effectively solve the problem.
We appreciate the care taken by kitesurfers to avoid disturbing wildlife, but with ever-increasing use of beaches it only takes a few incidents to attract unfavourable publicity, so we would ask for extra care to be taken during this sensitive time for the seals.
About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
- We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
- We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and advising widely on their conservation.
- We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
- We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
- We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.