Blakeney businesses warn against paddle boarder impact on seals

Lucinda Weston, office manager, and Jane Temple, owner, at Temple's Seal Trips at Morston Quay. Pict

Lucinda Weston, office manager, and Jane Temple, owner, at Temple's Seal Trips at Morston Quay. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant

Fears have been raised about the impact of kayaks, canoes and paddle boards on a north Norfolk seal population.

A trip to Blakeney Point to see the Common Seals is a must-do for many tourists, with tourist boats packed during the busy season.

Some are now also making the trip under their own steam - using paddleboards and kayaks to get closer to nature.

But people living and working locally now fear the seals are becoming unsettled by their presence and are also concerned the visitors themselves are at risk.

Jane Temple, one of the owners of Temple Seal Trips, is warning that visitors on smaller craft are disturbing the seals, which is having a negative effect on the animal’s need to give birth.

Mrs Temple, who runs the business alongside her husband, says the seals need to settle at the point for the summer months, so they can give birth.

She has encouraged people to stay away from the animals, as pups may suffer as a result of spooked parents.

Norfolk is...walks on the beach. Seals at Blakeney Point. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Seals at Blakeney Point - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

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“Canoes and kayaks have always spooked the seals, because of their potential predator shape,” Mrs Temple said.

“Being out on the water regularly, we can see the seals are not confident as they don't feel safe, which is tragic to observe.

“To be in July, they should be having their pups. Pups could die if the parents cannot settle where they need to.

“My advice to people wanting to go out on the water, which we have no problem with, would be to avoid going past the lifeboat house to avoid the seals, but also to stay out of trouble with the potential strong currents at the end of Blakeney point.”

Blakeney village sign

Blakeney village sign - Credit: Matthew Usher

Others in Blakeney have echoed the safety concerns around people going to the point.

Neil Thompson is a member of the Blakeney Harbour Association.

He has seen a rise in people bringing paddle boards and kayaks to the area, but like Mrs Temple, is urging people to avoid the area due to the strong tides.

New born grey seal pup with cow on National Trust's Blakeney Point.

New born grey seal pup with cow on National Trust's Blakeney Point. - Credit: Hanne Siebers

“We understand that seeing the seals is a lure, and it is difficult to get the message across just about how dangerous it can be out there,” he said.

“Sometimes people think they know better, there is not an authority here which can stop them.

“We don't want stricter rules, we want people to come and enjoy themselves and make the most out of it, but we don’t want people taking risks and getting into trouble.”

100th anniversary of the National Trust buying Blakeney Point and turning it into Norfolk's first na

The view from the lifeboat house watchtower. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

Richenda Thompson owns CoastalHireNorfolk, she rents out kayaks to the public.

She also urges people to use routes along the marshes and the creeks and stay far away from the point.

“With our hires, we explain how dangerous it is with leaflets and information before they head out,” she said.

“If the wind and tide are against you, you're being pushed out to seas.

“I wouldn't do it, my children would not do it and I flat out tell people just how dangerous it would be.”

A grey seal at Blakeney Point in north Norfolk. 

A grey seal at Blakeney Point in north Norfolk. - Credit: Chris Taylor Photo

Victoria Egan, general manager for the National Trust’s Norfolk Coast and Broads, said: “We take reports of wildlife disturbance seriously and ask anyone thinking of visiting the Norfolk Coast to do so responsibly and keep your distance from the seals.

"These are wild animals and they need their space. The best way to get close to the seals on Blakeney Point is to book a trip on one of the locally operated boat trips departing from Morston Quay.

“Paddle boarding and kayaking is becoming a popular activity and we’re doing more to raise awareness and protect the seal colony, through signage and conversations with visitors.

"As we head into the busy summer season, we’re planning to highlight responsible visiting through additional messaging on our social media channels and website.

“We know many of those visiting us are being responsible and we’re working with our Active Outdoors specialist to make sure that we’re doing all we can to help protect the wildlife on Blakeney Point.”