New rules crack down on reckless water scooter use


water scooters

Anyone caught recklessly using water scooter can face two years in prison and an unlimited fine

Welsh wildlife experts have welcomed measures to crack down on reckless water scooter use.

New laws to help tackle the “dangerous misuse” of the vehicles off the UK coast come into force on 31 March.

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams said reckless riders, who he has seen endanger the lives of sea birds, needed to be “brought to task”.

But some have called for more stringent measures, including mandatory training and licensing of water scooters.

The new legislation will give the Maritime and Coastguard Agency more powers to prosecute reckless riders, which could see them face up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

“I’ve watched jet skis go through the middle of sea bird colonies… this is completely unacceptable,” said TV naturalist Mr Williams.

“Friends of mine that are good naturalists have seen them chase dolphins and porpoises, it just can’t go on and we need tighter regulations and the people that do this brought to task,” he added.

Iolo Williams

TV naturalist Iolo Williams said reckless water scooter users are a danger to wildlife

While Mr Williams would like to see licenses for operating water scooters, he thinks the new laws are step in the right direction, but only if they are enforced.

“What often happens is they bring in these new laws and all that happens is they get a light fine or let off. What’s key here is that its monitored and policed properly,” he said.

“Why are you allowed to have a powerful machine with no training, no licence, nothing at all and you can go on the sea and do whatever you like. There have been deaths before, and there will be again.”

‘Dolphins terrified by the noise’

Owner and director of the Anglesey Sea Zoo Frankie Hobro has seen first-hand the impact water scooters have on wildlife, including sea bird colonies, seal rookeries and pods of dolphins and porpoises.

She said she is pleased that the legislation is coming but is calling for more stringent measures – including a licence and training scheme, similar to motorcycles, and creating areas off-limits to water scooters.

She said: “I have sat on the shore watching porpoises and dolphins, happily doing their thing, calm, relaxed, happy, then suddenly totally freak out and disappear.

“They are terrified by the noise, they can hear the vibrations under the water long before you see the Jet Skis coming, but they know.

“They definitely have a negative impact, through the noise disruption of their habitat.”

Frankie Hobro

Frankie Hobro would like to see more stringent measures introduced to regulate water scooters

Ms Hobro added: “Some Jet Skiers have been known to get too close to seal hauls, the area where they hang out in groups, on rocks out at sea.

“Seals can sometimes be quite hard to spot from a distance. The Jet Skis either deliberately or accidentally can go up too close to the rookeries. The frightened seals freak out and jump back in the water, and these are big animals.

“There also risks to the Jet Ski users, a lot can happen to people out at sea, and it is not always easy to get help to where they can find themselves.”

‘It’s like letting anyone on a motorbike’

Arfon MP, Hywel Williams, has campaigned over jet skis and introduced a bill in parliament in 2020 seeking to regulate their use by bringing in a UK-wide licensing system.

Ms Hobro added: “I agree with what Hywel Williams says. I am glad that these new laws are being brought in, but I think we need more regulation.

“Like motorcycles, I think there should be some sort of training, a test or a license that Jet Skiers should before they go out on the sea.

“As it stands, anyone can get on a powerful Jet Ski and just go, that’s like letting anyone get on a motorbike and just go.

“I also think they should bring in designated, contained recreational areas of the sea, or areas where Jet Skiers can go.”


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