Marine wildlife disturbance monitoring during G7 summit

Over the last few months, our Welfare Development and Field Support Officer Dan Jarvis has been leading a team including our colleagues at Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust, who have been actively engaging with Devon and Cornwall Police around marine wildlife disturbance issues that might arise from the #G7 summit and its heavy security presence in Cornwall last week.

Together they put together plans for:
– Preventative disturbance and entanglement mitigation actions, including sharing best practice wildlife watching codes of conduct from the Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group.
– Sharing details of sensitive wildlife locations such as seal haul out and seabird nesting sites to create no fly/sail zones near them.
– Setting up dawn to dusk effort surveys at four strategic locations to monitor wildlife and record disturbance incidents over eight days around the summit.
– Creating a real-time reporting system for cetacean and basking sharks sighted near to sensitive areas so that on-water security units could be advised immediately of their presence and take appropriate action to prevent disturbance.
– Writing up daily feedback briefings for the Police and Ministry of Defence on survey effort, sightings and disturbance incidents with mitigation recommendations if any problems arose.
– Arranging protocols for special access to restricted areas in the event of a marine wildlife casualty, such as a live dolphin stranding.

We are thrilled to say that as a result of these combined energies, the G7 summit caused very minimal disturbance to marine wildlife throughout the event, with ongoing recommendations from the daily briefings actioned immediately and willingly by the security services.

The real-time reporting system was well and truly tested at the most critical of moments on Saturday as the G7 and other invited world leaders were having their evening beach barbeque when, incredibly, a pod of bottlenose dolphins suddenly turned up very close by at the same time as the Red Arrows arrival for their aerial display! However, the system worked perfectly, and with just a couple of phone calls the fleet of patrolling marine security vessels were able to respond immediately and change course to avoid the pod and potentially a serious disturbance incident.

The action plan has been so successful that the Police partnership group will continue beyond the event in the hope that similar methods and actions can be shared with other Forces around the country and reused for other similar major events in the future. This whole consultation period and summit has been extremely positive for all involved, and we feel honoured to have been actively involved in a very small part of such an historic world event.

We would like to say a huge thank you to Chris and Julian from Devon and Cornwall Police for reaching out and working with us to create all of these plans from scratch. Of course we must also give a big thank you to the 49 volunteers from BDMLR, CWT and CSGRT who have managed to cover an amazing 365 hours of survey effort over 8 days around the G7 summit to help keep our wildlife as safe and sound as possible!

Photo: Sue Sayer/CSGRT