Jet ski riders may have hurt protected seabirds at RSPB Bempton Cliffs

jet skis
jet skis

Jet ski riders have been spotted driving into large flocks of protected seabirds resting on waters below the RSPB Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.

Some witnesses to the incident earlier this month were even concerned a few birds, currently in their breeding season, were injured by the impact.

It is not the first incident of its kind and according to Keith Clarkson, site manager at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve jet skis should be banned from the waters below the cliffs during the breeding season.

“I was on the Yorkshire Belle last weekend and we were shocked to see the jet skiers just going straight through the flocks of birds without any attempt to avoid them whatsoever,” said Mr Clarkson.

He explained the sea below the cliffs where the birds nest is a critical part of their habitat as it is where they socialise, clean and even breed.

At the moment there are more than 200,000 seabirds, including puffins, kittiwakes, gannets and razor bills, using Bempton cliffs as a place to breed, and at any one time there can be tens of thousands rafting on the sea.

Mr Clarkson said: “They are as vulnerable on the sea as they are on the cliffs. Most people seem willing to work with us and let the seabirds carry on what they do. It is disturbing when we see the jet skis having such blatant disregard.”

Tim Birch, a tourist aboard the Yorkshire Belle along with many others on the day of the incident, said: “Birds were trying to scatter but simply could not get out of the way fast enough. This is totally outrageous and needs to stopped immediately.

“I was shocked to witness this at such a heavily protected seabird site of international importance.

“Very soon there will be very young chicks in the water, I am sure that they will be killed by such activities.”

A code of conduct exists along the coastline to advise that leisure activities such as jet skiing are undertaken with consideration to roosting birds along the cliffs, and should stay 100 metres away from the shore at any time.

However this code is voluntary and not enforced by an authority.

Natural England, a member of the Flamborough Management Scheme and a statutory body for the European Marine Site, has been informed of the disturbance to the breeding seabird colonies which are protected by national and European legislation.

The Flamborough Head Management Scheme, a partnership of organisations including local authorities, statutory bodies and local harbour commissioners, is working with the RSPB in an attempt to find a solution.

Mr Clarkson said: “If the jet skiers have representative organisations then it would be good to be able to work with them so that people who are coming are fully aware of the need to avoid the areas during the breeding season.”

Members of the public are encouraged to report any further incidents occurring around Flamborough Head to the Flamborough Project Officer. Call 01482 391721 or email