Coquet Island sanctuary: a plea to paddlers and rowers

Posted on 01st June 2021 | in Capt'n Coquet's Corner , Community , Coquet Island

As lockdown restrictions ease, everyone is eager to get out and enjoy the newfound freedom, and fresh air.

Puffins, terns and a rainbow on Coquet Island. Photo by Hilary Brooker Carey

There has been a noticeable increase in the numbers of kayakers and paddle boarders enjoying the waters around Coquet Island.

Sadly some have been getting too close to the island and lifting the birds off their roosts and nests, while a few try to use the island as a convenient place to take a rest, seeming unaware that Coquet Island is a sanctuary for seabirds and protected by law and such actions could lead to a hefty fine!

The plea from the RSPB to kayakers and other craft that head for the waters around Coquet Island is simple and clear: please keep your distance and help safeguard this special place.

The island and associated rocks exposed at low tide is protected by law under several conservation designations, all year round.

Coquet is home to over 70,000 nesting seabirds each year and includes puffins, eiders, fulmar, kittiwake and is home to the sole UK colony of roseate terns, Britain’s rarest nesting seabird.

The wardens have been working closely with the Coquet Shorebase Trust who have always supported the need to safeguard the reserve’s birds and are helping to find ways to better inform visiting kayakers and commercial enterprises to be aware of the birds and respect the law whilst enjoying their sport.

With fines of up to £5000 and six months imprisonment for the more serious offences, the police provide backup to the warden staff and have in place Operational Orders as means of responding effectively to incidents.

This is backed up with a sophisticated CCTV system which is in place to record offenders that ignore advice.

Hopefully goodwill can prevail and people on the water can enjoy their sports and the birds can thrive undisturbed.

Paul Morrison
RSPB Coquet Island

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