Code of Conduct
We are members of the Scottish Marine Wildlife Operators Association which was set up by the operators themselves for mutual benefit and to safeguard the wildlife we all depend upon. Members are dedicated to introducing their customers to the marine wildlife of Scotland in an environmentally sustainable way. There are many different Codes of Conduct around, offering similar guidelines. Ours follow those set down by SMWOA.
- Allow birds and mammals to continue their normal activities by avoiding noise and physical disturbance which may startle them and cause them to move away. Boats should avoid altering course or speed quickly.
- Back off immediately if birds or animals show any signs of distress.
- Use binoculars for close viewing. This increases the wildlife experience (you’ll see more) and reduces disturbance.
- Remember also that there are other marine users, take care not to affect their enjoyment of the area.
- Respect the interests of local people who rely on the area for their livelihoods.
- If more than one boat is watching the same wildlife be prepared to increase your distance and limit your watching time. Generally we don’t broadcast to other operators when having an encounter.
- Be considerate when approaching known coastal wildlife sanctuaries. Maintain a regular speed and do not stop in front of land-based watchers as wildlife may be disturbed by your presence.
Interaction with Birds
- When near birds maintain a slow steady speed or stop at a distance consistent with safety requirements.
- Avoid entering rafts of seabirds.
- Extra care should be taken during the seabird breeding seasons (April – August) as the birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance at this time.
- Avoid disturbance of rare species by keeping knowledge of nest sites to yourself.
- Be aware, Raptor nests have a legally enforceable 400m exclusion zone.
Interaction with Seals
- When near seals maintain a slow steady speed or stop at a distance consistent with safety requirements.
- Avoid going too close and back off quietly if the behaviour of seals indicates distress.
- Additional care should be taken during seal pupping and moulting seasons. Haul out sites should not be approached closer than 100m where channel width permits.
- Avoid seals or their pups on the beach as this causes stress and could result in prolonged separation between mother and pup and the death of the pup. Seal pups might look cuddly but they are wild animals and you should respect them as such.
Interaction with Otters
- Otters are generally very shy so care should be taken to avoid disturbing them; especially near otter sanctuaries or known territories.
Interaction with Cetaceans
- Allow cetaceans to choose whether or not to approach the boat.
- Maintain forward progress at a slow steady speed or stop if cetaceans are near. This reduces the risk of collision, harassment and noise disturbance.
- If cetaceans approach the boat or bow ride keep the engine running. This helps them to locate the boat.
- Swimming with, touching or feeding marine mammals can be dangerous – remember these are wild animals.
When Walking on Land
- Keep to paths or established routes where possible, to reduce disturbance to wildlife or conflict with other interests in the countryside.
- Keep dogs under control. (NB No dogs permitted on our cruises)
- Respect interests of local people in the countryside.
- Remember, the less the wildlife sees us, the more we see them.
- Your rubbish can hurt wildlife – even items you consider biodegradable. Put your rubbish in an appropriate refuse container or bring it back to the boat for proper disposal.
- Litter, fishing tackle, oil and other contaminants directly harm wildlife and their environment. Dispose in appropriate containers ashore.
- No rubbish, of any kind, must go overboard when the vessel is at sea.
- During overhaul and maintenance always follow best environmental practice.
- See our environmental policy for more of these kind of guidelines.
Advice for Prospective Wildlife Watchers
- Do you want to help protect the wildlife of Scotland, whilst still enjoying views of birds, seals, porpoises, whales and dolphins? To look after these for the future we must enjoy them on their terms, not ours.
- Help us to protect the wildlife of Scotland. Remember that wildlife is likely to be less distressed by experienced boat operators or guides who regularly enter these areas.
- Local boat operators and guides can help you to have an experience of a lifetime, if we all help with these simple rules.
When You Join Us Please Pledge to:
- give the wildlife space
- keep quiet
- be predictable in where you go and how fast
- leave the wildlife if there is a problem
- avoid others who are enjoying the wildlife
- keep a safe distance from groups of birds on land or sea
- allow whales, dolphins and porpoises to decide if they want you around
- bring binoculars to get a close view without causing disturbance
- avoid touching or feeding wildlife
- on land, keep to paths and keep any dogs under control (NB No dogs permitted on our cruises)
- be considerate of the people who live and work where you are visiting
Finally, if you are not sure about what to do, or why, just ask us and we’ll explain. Enjoy your visit and help us to help you. In that way others in the future can have the same pleasure as you in observing wildlife in its natural habitat.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first signs of habitation on Hirta (the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago and the only one you can really land on) are thought to have occurred c. 600 AD.