Operation Seabird to protect coastal wildlife at Pegwell Bay nature reserve area

PCSO Ian Norton, Kent Police, Michael Lee, Birdwise East Kent Project Manager, Jasmine Beveridge, Bird Wise East Kent, Nina Jones, Protected Area Warden, Kent Wildlife Trust and Sgt Darren Walshaw, Kent Police

Kent Police, Kent Wildlife Trust, Thanet council’s Coastal Team and Bird Wise East Kent have teamed up to raise awareness of Operation Seabird.

The police-led initiative is aimed at protecting wildlife in coastal areas.

Members of the Rural Task Force met with representatives from Kent Wildlife Trust, Thanet District Council and Bird Wise East Kent at Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve where newly installed signs offer advice to visitors on how to watch seals without disturbing them.

The group discussed their concerns around the impacts of wildlife disturbance, from incidents of dogs chasing seabirds resting on the mudflats, an area with restricted access to protect wildlife, to cases where some jet skiers acting antisocially have put people and wildlife at risk, including the vulnerable seals hauled out in the Stour Estuary.

It follows an incident where a boat was speeding and disturbing wildlife at Pegwell Bay.

The man who captured the film does not wish to be named but said: “As a regular birder who counts thousands of birds at Pegwell Bay, it is such a shame that events such as this are occurring at a RAMSAR, SSSI, SAC protected National Nature Reserve and SPA when it should be a safe haven for all wildlife.”

At the meeting there was also discussion about Natural England which doesn’t consent to water sports within the boundaries of the Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve. Previously some sports had been restricted to the Western Undercliff between October and March by way of a voluntary agreement under specific conditions, however, to minimise disturbance, water sports, such as jet-skiing, paddle boarding or kitesurfing will no longer be permitted at any time.

The reserve is an internationally important site for wildlife, most notably for coastal and wetland birds. There has been a decline in the numbers of several of the important bird species over the last few years and it is hoped by reducing disturbances, numbers will improve.

Operation Seabird was originally developed around the Flamborough Head European Marine Site in Yorkshire where continuous disturbance to marine wildlife from motorised watercraft was leading to unsuccessful breeding seasons.

By working with the community and partners, like Kent Wildlife Trust, it is hoped that Operation Seabird will protect important marine and coastal habitats and wildlife, while also raising awareness of environmental issues through local knowledge and enforcement powers.

Sergeant Darren Walshaw, of Kent Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “The results of allowing a dog to run free in a protected area can be extremely harmful for birds and may result in their death or in them abandoning their chicks.

“We take wildlife crime extremely seriously and will continue to work with partner organisations around Kent to protect animals and birds living in the county’s wonderful natural habitats.

“I urge anyone who has information or concerns about wildlife crime or disturbance to report it to us via our website.”

Protected Area Warden Nina Jones at Pegwell Bay

Protected Area Warden Nina Jones added: “Pegwell Bay is a precious habitat for wildlife. It is home to many rare and endangered species, including habitats the attract the largest onshore haul out of Seals in Kent. As high season approaches, we are preparing ourselves for the increase in wildlife disturbance and each year it is a bit more heartbreaking.

“It is hard to put into words how important sites like Pegwell Bay are and how needed they are, yet wildlife is being squeezed out because of recreational pressures and developments. People come here to enjoy the wildlife, so please stop chasing it away.”

Cllr Steve Albon, Cabinet Member for Coastal Services at Thanet council, said: “Thanet has a spectacular coastline and provides important habitat for so much wildlife. Protecting our coastline is something that we take very seriously, and we value the important work done by partner organisations and volunteers.”

If you see someone causing a significant disturbance to wildlife along the coastline you can report it in the following ways:

Via the Kent Police Website, or call 101, if you have a hearing or speech impairment, use the textphone service 18000.

For more information on how to avoid disturbance at Pegwell and Sandwich Bay National Nature Reserve go to: Sandwich and Pegwell Bay | Kent Wildlife Trust


  1. Strange state of affairs where £ millions cab be spent on 3 bison, we can have a whole task force in Pegwell bay about a very rare misbehaving dog, we can stop people taking exercise kite surfing , wind surfing etc in an area that used to have cross channel hovercraft running through it. But shop lifting, anti social behaviour, graffiti, no sorry not important, not on our priority list. Not a good photo opportunity fora councillor.

  2. It has been decades since the hovercraft was operational! Unfortunately,like your example of a ‘rare misbehaving dog’, this is the impact of the behaviour of the irresponsible idiots. They may be few but the damage they do is clear from the article. Its absolutely right that the wildlife should be protected.

  3. i hope the council will also ban jet-skiers from coming anywhere near the beaches where human beings swim.

    • Irresponsible, unregistered jet skiers have been blighting Thanet’s beaches for years.
      TDC’s existing code, and the code of responsible jetski clubs, prohibits skis from coming closer inshore than 200m, or from disturbing and interfering with wildlife.
      The problem is: how to enforce these regulations? Do TDC have jet ski equipped enforcement officers?

  4. Won’t be many sea birds to protect in the area or other natural wild life if planes begin flying from the multiple times failed airfield.

  5. It’s pretty poor journalism with a huge agenda behind it. It’s shocking to see the Police putting their name to this with all the crime that goes unsolved in Thanet; surely sorting out the shoplifters, vandals, drunken brawls, drugs and other far more pressing social issues at hand is better than supporting a bunch of twitchers who want to stop access to a bay that has been home to many different users for centuries. It’s a sad state of affairs, really; you all need to reset your priorities and get out a bit more…

  6. While protecting our environment is paramount, it’s equally important that such decisions are grounded in robust scientific research rather than primarily opinion-based advocacy. This is opinion based and no proper legal framework.

    The decision to ban activities like kitesurfing, paddleboarding all year-round seems to be driven by incidents highlighted by birdwatchers and not backed by scientific studies demonstrating that all forms of water sports have significant detrimental impacts on wildlife in the area. While anecdotal evidence from local observers is valuable, it should not be the sole basis for such sweeping restrictions.

    Water sports enthusiasts are often portrayed in a negative light, yet many are committed to environmental conservation and educated about the habitats they use.

    Ensuring the protection of Pegwell Bay’s wildlife should certainly be a priority, but this needs to be balanced with fair and scientifically supported policies. As members of this community, both birdwatchers and sports enthusiasts deserve a we protect our shared environment, ideally decisions that are informed by science rather than dominated by any single interest group like birdwatchers whose motives are the perfect camera shot!

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