Find out more about some of the species you could see when cruising in UK waters

If the BBC’s new wildlife series on sharks has given you a whole new insight into the world of these amazing creatures, then you might be interested to know that the UK has over 20 species of resident sharks commonly found all year round including the Porbeagle and the Smallspotted Catshark, as well as a number of seasonal summer visitors such as the Blue shark and Shortfin Mako.

As a boater there is no better place to be than on the water if you want to catch a glimpse of the UK’s amazing marine wildlife, and as the cruising season gets underway with warmer weather and calmer seas, you are very likely to come across an array of creatures from seabirds, whales, dolphins and seals to sharks and turtles.

Basking shark

The largest fish in British waters (and the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark) is the impressive basking shark up to 12 metres in length and 6 tonnes in weight. It’s likely that you will spot it as it moves on its annual journey between May and September from the southwest tip of England up through Cardigan Bay, along the Isle of Man and Strangford Lough and on to the west coast of Scotland. As spring approaches, these gentle giants come to the surface to filter feed peacefully and slowly with their gargantuan mouths agape but it’s also during these times that they are at their most vulnerable from sightseers and boaters. Basking sharks are harmless so by all means take a look at a sensible distance but remember these wonderful creatures are protected by law.

The Smallspotted Catshark is the smallest shark found in the UK, rarely getting up to 100cm in length but distinguishable with its dark spotted body. In contrast the Porbeagle is strong and powerful and can grow up to 3.5 metres in length and over 135kgs in weight. Although alarmingly similar to the Great White in appearance, there’s nothing to fear as its diet of mackerel, pilchard and herring makes it disinterested in humans, though its speed and size alone makes it sensible to give it a wide berth!

Familiar sightings around the UK tend to be the curious and playful dolphins and seals. The most nimble species is the bottlenose dolphin, and often it will be this species that will join your passage on the bow wave. Large, stocky and strong and growing up to four metres, they are incredibly sleek in the water and can reach a swift 20 miles per hour. A smooth grey skin, white underside and short stubby beak might help you recognise it.

If you’re lucky enough to be accompanied by a playful pod this summer or any other marine wildlife, the rule of thumb is to steer a steady course at reduced speed and let them decide how long they wish to stay! Never chase or harass or go closer to get a better look as disturbance could land you on the wrong side of the law!

If you would like to read a little more about the variety of species found in UK waters, take a look at The Green Blue’s Green Marine Wildlife Guide.

For a printed version email with your name and address. Alternatively venture into the digital version which is part of the RYA’s range of e-books by downloading the free ‘RYA Books’ app from iTunes and tapping ‘Catalogues & Brochures’.

For more information visit

The summer sailing season is starting to kick off. Boaters who have been as dormant as their boats over the winter months have sprung to life, cleaning and prepping their craft. While the sparrows prepare their nests, these boaters are getting ready to compete or cruise in the beautiful British summer. And with that comes the call to once again Check, Clean and Dry!

You may have already heard of the better known (INNS) Invasive Non Native Species such as the ‘Killer Shrimp’ or ‘New Zealand Pigmyweed’ but others such as ‘Carpet Sea Squirt’, ‘Wireweed’ and ‘Zebra Mussels’ have also been found in British waters. These species are not native to the British Isles and left unchecked can cause harm, effectively outcompeting, native UK species. They can also clog up waterways and affect water quality making navigation difficult, for example certain types of water primrose that can grow into thick carpets.


Killer shrimp
Killer shrimp

Check, Clean, Dry is the best way to protect both your stretch of water and others around the country from INNS. You may have taken your boat to a club or site already actively dealing with these problems and may therefore be well versed in the Check Clean Dry process. If you haven’t or even if you rarely take your boat away from your club, it is good advice to have all boats, checked, cleaned and dried before getting back on the water, especially in the wake of the high tides and major flooding.

When you Check Clean Dry it is more than just the boat, it is anything that may have had contact with the water and could possibly hide species, fragments, eggs or spores of an INNS – Killer Shrimp can lay up to 200 eggs per clutch and can spread rapidly! Thoroughly check and wash down the trailer and any launching trollies, particularly nooks and crannies such as tyre treads, and check, clean and dry sails, wetsuits and buoyancy aids. The drying stage is just as important as some species can survive in damp equipment and clothing for up to two weeks. It may seem like extra effort, but the pros outweigh the cons and will ensure you have a healthy stretch of water to sail on for many seasons to come.

Find out more about The Green Blue and get The Green Blue’s Aquatic Invaders poster

There is no better place to be than on the water if you want to catch a glimpse of the UK’s amazing marine wildlife. But it is important to be aware that anyone caught disturbing wildlife can now be prosecuted. Recent changes to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Amended, provide increased protection for wildlife.

Ignorance is no excuse

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, as shown by a recent case of two skippers whose actions were linked to the death of a juvenile inshore bottlenose dolphin in the Camel Estuary, near Padstow in July 2013. The skippers admitted reckless disturbance which, under the Act carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.

In this instance, the skippers were dealt with by ‘restorative justice’ and forced to complete a Wildlife Safe (WiSe) course on how to view marine wildlife safely, responsibly and within the law.

Protect and enjoy

Appreciating our marine wildlife is part of the pleasure of taking to the water but it is important to know what to do when you encounter wildlife to stay on the right side of the law and enjoy the experience.

The Green Marine Wildlife Guide, a digital guide for iPad and iPhone, provides interactive touch based illustrations of marine wildlife together with an interactive map of the UK revealing what marine wildlife we can expect to see around the coast through the year.

For instance, from May onwards the gentle giant of the basking shark can be seen in waters off the UK’s south west coast as they head up north for their annual migration. Whilst in the North East grey seals are a common sighting.

Top tips

The guide provides a series of top tips for spotting marine wildlife and importantly guidance on how to avoid disturbing or hurting them.

Clear guidelines help with what to do if you see a marine animal including advice on how much time you should spend near the animals and how much clearance you should give them.

The golden rule when watching marine wildlife is to be aware of any change in their behaviour which may signify disturbance.

To explore the digital edition of the Green Marine Wildlife Guide, download the free ‘RYA Books’ app from iTunes and touch the ‘Catalogues & Brochures’ to find the Guide.

The Green Blue is the environment initiative of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) and the BMF (British Marine Federation). Visit The Green Blue website.

Bottlenose dolphin image: Charlie Phillips

The annual Beach Clean at Carrick Castle was carried out at 11.00 hrs on Sunday 4th May 2014.

Nine people helped clean up the beach – Forrester & Alison Cockburn from Carrick Castle; Robert & Ellen Cuchley from Lochoilhead; Liz Evans & Douglas Locke from Carrick Castle; Bill Miller from Carrick Castle and Ian & Dorothy Nicholson from Carrick Castle.

About 14 bags of rubbish were collected plus old ropes, a battery and other items.

Thank you to all who gave up an hour to make our Carrick Castle beach free for rubbish.

Six Carrick Castle Boat Club members (Liz Evans, Douglas Locke, Ian & Dorothy Nicholson and Steve Mcnab and his friend Dan from Clydebank) turned out on a wet day on Saturday 11th May 2013 to clear the beach and shore line of rubbish in Carrick Castle.

Steve, Liz, Douglas, Ian & Dorothy (photo by Dan)

Jim Graham helped the previous day to cut up a wrecked rib in advance and put it in a large bag ready for the Beach Clean Day that was part of the Keep Scotland Tidy scheme that Lochgoilhead were also involved with on the same day.

Several bags of rubbish were collected and piled up ready for the council to collect. The two photographs show five of the team and the pile of rubbish collected in Carrick Castle.