Police issue warning after orca pod disturbed by boat

Officers were called after the incident involving the killer whales off Shetland.

Police issue warning after orca pod disturbed by boat iStock

Police have issued a warning as officers on Shetland are investigating the disturbance of a pod of orcas by a boat.

Police were called after the incident involving the killer whales at Brae around 4pm on Saturday, April 10.

People have been warned to keep their distance from the animals as disturbing them is against the law.

Police Sergeant Victoria Duthie, of Lerwick Police Station, said: “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.”

Those who are on the water in a kayak or boats have been urged to follow the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code.

Sergeant Duthie said: “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 minutes.

“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.”

Sergeant Duthie said that signs that you have disturbed the whales, dolphins or porpoises can be subtle. She said they can change their behaviour such as diving times, swimming speed or tail slapping. They can also stop what they were doing, including ceasing feeding or socialising.

“If you think you see any changes then back off and slow down,” she said.

“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.”

For further information on the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code visit NatureScot’s website here.

A guide to best practice for watching marine wildlife can be found here.