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Old 08-15-2012, 04:04 AM
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Default Kitesurfers "terrorise" seals

Kite surfers are being accused of endangering a protected Norfolk seal colony.

"The seals are very popular and we must protect them and not disturb them."

Philip Etherington.
Yesterday (Sunday) a group of kite surfers - who ride waves on surfboards attached to kites - were spotted at Horsey Beach, the site of a large seal colony.

Despite several loud warnings from the shoreline the six kite surfers continued to surf close to where the seals congregate, yards from the shore in between two groynes.

Council worker Philip Etherington, 49, from Framingham Earl, was visiting the beach for a spot of birdwatching when he became concerned for the welfare of the seals.

Mr Etherington said: “They ignored being shouted at and waved at to get further out. Their approach terrified the seals into the water, which then made matters worse as they came within 10 yards of the shoreline.

“There was certainly at least one collision, judging by the reaction of one of the kitesurfers, but I do not know the condition of the seal. They were clearly aware of the seals and did not seem to want to do much about it.

“Why they had to get so close I will never know, they had the whole North Sea to play with and that stretch where the seals are is a small part of a huge beach.

“We have to raise awareness of the seals and tell people where to avoid, especially if kite surfers are going to start using the beach regularly. The seals are very popular and we must protect them and not disturb them.”

Mr Etherington has emailed the Natural England and the British Kite Surfing Association. He says he is pleased with the response from the latter, who asked for more detail on where the seals are so they can take avoidance measures.

Thousands visit the beach every year to enjoy the site of the seals, whose numbers can reach more than 1,000 seals around Christmas time.

Horsey parish councillor Diane Miller said: “I have never heard of anyone kite surfing at the beach before, and the seals are not normally a problem.

“You do not need to land so close to where they are, there are only a few of them at this time of year and that is a long stretch of beach.

“I am disappointed to hear this, it could just be a one off but I will look into it and look to take action if this is not the case.

“No one in Horsey would wish any harm to the seals.”
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