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Marine / Police investigate report of boat disturbing orcas

An image of an orca breaching the water off Fetlar, taken by Brydon Thomason a few years ago.

POLICE are investigating an incident in Shetland on 10 April which involved a boat disturbing orcas.

In conjunction with NatureScot, the police has given fresh advice on watching marine wildlife.

“Whales, dolphins and porpoises are wonderful to watch, but it’s against the law to disturb them,” they said.

“If you are out on the water – whether that’s in a kayak, pleasure boat or fishing boat, and come across whales or dolphins please follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code.

“The main thing is to keep your distance – at least 200m for pods with calves, slow your speed and minimise your time with these animals – no more than 15 mins. Always approach cautiously.

“In practice this means slowing down to less than six knots when you are a good distance away. If animals come to you – maintain a steady course and speed.

“Signs of disturbance can be quite subtle but include changes in animal behaviour such as diving times, swimming speed, tail slapping or ceasing previous behaviour such as feeding or socialising. If you think you see any changes then back off and slow down.

“The key is to let the animals be in control of the entire encounter. They should choose how close to approach. If they choose not to interact, or to depart, this should be respected. A good encounter is one which is enjoyable for you and neither threatening nor harmful to the animals.

“In Shetland we are extremely fortunate to be able to see many cetacean species, including orca, regularly from land. There are lots of good places around Shetland’s coast to sit and watch cetaceans – you do not have to go out in a boat to be able to experience that.”

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