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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.

 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, 2017.  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