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Environment / Renewed appeal not to disturb seals on Rerwick beach

Quad tracks on Rerwick Beach yesterday (Tuesday).

A CALL has been made by environment agency NatureScot for people in the south mainland to be aware of legislation which protects the local seal population from harassment and disturbance.

The appeal has been made after the popular seal haul out at Rerwick was again used as a playground by people on quad bikes.

Karen Hall from the local NatureScot office said the beach south of the hamlet of Rerwick was a designated seal haul out and protected by law.

“This is one of the best sites in Shetland to observe seals without causing disturbance. It is regularly used by 20 upwards animals at any one time. It really is a good location to observe both species of seals,” the marine ecology adviser said.

“Behaviour such as driving quad bikes on the beach when seals are present would constitute on offence – so please don’t do it.

“Obviously, there is a balance to be struck between access to beaches and stretches of coastline, but people have to be mindful that some of these beaches are protected, and animals can be disturbed by certain activities.

“These places are protected by the Marine Scotland Act; and the offence could be harassment or deliberate disturbance, so driving a mechanical vehicle at seals would count as harassment.”

She said her office will report this latest incident to Police Scotland. In the past local police have investigated similar incidents and are known to have had “a word” with local people.

Hall added: “If people do witness any disturbance at this location or elsewhere, they should contact the police on telephone 101.”