Flamborough Head

Photo: © Africa Gómez

Flamborough Head Personal Watercraft Code of Conduct

By Heather Davison, Flamborough Head European Marine Site

The towering chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head on the east coast of Yorkshire, United Kingdom, attract thousands of breeding seabirds every year who utilise this sheer rock to raise their young in relative safety from mammalian predators. This spectacular coastline also attracts thousands of human visitors every year who enjoy walking in the open countryside, investigating the thriving rock pools and riding the waves of the North Sea. Unfortunately, some of these activities can come into conflict with the protected breeding seabird colony of the Flamborough Head European Marine Site (EMS).

Working with partners and user group representatives, the Flamborough Head EMS management scheme has developed a voluntary code of conduct for the use of personal watercraft (PWCs or Jet Skis) within this internationally-important area. These high-powered vessels have the potential to travel at speed, creating a collision risk with rafting birds. The noise of these fast-moving craft, too, can cause birds to leave their nests in alarm.

Following a number of significant incidents in 2014, which led to two individuals being prohibited from using their PWCs within the site, a workshop was held with interested parties to discuss how to encourage responsible use of the protected area. As a result of these discussions, a ‘No-Wake Zone’ was established in order to reduce the potential for conflict by asking PWC riders to travel at a slow speed within 300 metres of the cliff face.

Since the introduction of this agreement, there have been fewer reports of disturbance and the profile of the protected area has increased. Now in its second season, the voluntary code of conduct continues to provide advice and guidance to local PWC users, encouraging individuals to consider their behaviour and help to protect our important wildlife.