Watersports in the Solent European Marine Sites are classified as paddlesports like kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. The use of flyboards, kite and windsurfers and hovercraft will also be looked at in this activity category. Recreational boating is classified separately. The SEMS annual monitoring has identified watersports as a 'high risk' activity. Natural England believe there is a residual impact on the SEMS from watersports that may cause the condition of SEMS to change; their concern is that unmanaged water sports activities in sensitive areas impacts on the breeding and non-breeding bird features.
Recreational disturbance by watersports is generally a low frequency but high disturbance event. Activities that have been seen around the Solent that have a high impact on birds include flyboarding, the use of paramotors and kitesurfing.
Paddlesport Guidelines to Avoid Bird Disturbance in Solent European Marine Sites
These Guidelines have been produced by the Solent Forum’s Natural Environment Group’s working group on recreation; the Recreation Focus Group (RFG). The RFG was established to look at the issue of disturbance to birds from paddlesports; an action identified by the Solent’s Relevant Authorities in the Solent European Marine Sites (SEMS) annual monitoring scheme. They also help to meet actions on recreation identified in Natural England’s Solent Site Improvement Plan (SIP).
These Guidelines are designed to give generic consistent advice for Paddlesports users across all SEMS sites; they have been circulated to all SEMS Relevant Authorities (RAs). It is hoped that these Authorities will take this guidance and transpose it into their existing publications, digital media, maps and signage. It will help them to fulfill their requirements for managing activities under the EU Habitats Directive.
Conservation Advice Packages
Information from Natural England's new conservation advice packages for the Solent's designated sites highlights the following potential effects that watersports may have on habitats and species. Litter, trampling and erosion of sites when accessing the water, noise and visual disturbance to birds and other wildlife and the introduction of alien species.
National Watersports Participation Survey
A National Watersports Participation Survey is conducted annually by a consortium of leading marine bodies including British Marine, Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), British Canoeing (BC) and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). Download the executive summary report, 2015. The most popular boating activities stayed much the same in 2015 with canoeing welcoming 1.4m UK participants and motor boating/cruising and small sail boat activities remaining the second most popular.
Chichester Harbour Conservancy (CHC) figures showed an increase by kayaks of 31% between 2013 and 2014. From 2015, CHC will record the number of paddleboards that use Chichester Harbour. The Conservancy is producing a leaflet to inform all water users how they can reduce their impact and disturbance of birds using the harbour. ‘No landing’ signage on the most important bird roosts will be renewed and visits to local paddleboarding and kayaking centres in Chichester Harbour will increase awareness and understanding of these measures. Navigational bulletins are also used to target watercraft users and to keep them updated.
Flyboarding, which involves a "jet pack" powered by a personal water craft, was observed in Langstone Harbour for the first time during 2014. Although currently an irregular and infrequent activity, flyboarding could become a disturbing presence in the harbour if it gained popularity; Langstone Harbour Board has no regulatory mechanism for control of flyboarding.
In 2013, the Natural Environment Group funded a study to look at the Water-based recreation disturbance on coastal bird populations in Langstone Harbour.
Resources and Best Practice Material
- Paddlesports Guidelines to Avoid Bird Disturbance
- Sussex IFCA -'Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) Information on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)'.
- Canoeing in Poole Harbour
- The Green Blue Boaters Best Practice - Wildlife
- Kayaking in Langstone Harbour Leaflet
- Link to You Tube videos on RYA channel
- Green Blue online educational activity worksheets
- Solent Seals Code of Conduct
- Water-based recreation disturbance on coastal bird populations. A canoeing/kayaking case study in Langstone Harbour, UK. Sara Méndez Roldán, 2013.
- Solent Bird Studies
- British Canoe Union Guide to the Marine Environment
- Natural England IPENS Public Access and Disturbance Theme Plan
- Charter Boat Code of Conduct for Marine Wildlife Watching (developed for the Northumbria Coast)
- Poole Harbour Special Protection Area and Bird Sensitive Areas
- Poole Harbour Leaflet for Kitesurfers
- Thames Estuary Code of Conduct for Personal Water Craft Users
- WiSe Scheme