A private member's Bill to give local authorities power to designate any coastal marine area as wetbike-free zones was given an unopposed first reading with all-party sponsorship.
Council byelaws would enable fixed penalties, with fines not exceeding£1,000 for each offence. The fixed penalty notices would be issued by a council officer, who would be given powers to require a suspected offender to give their name and address. It would be an offence not to do so.
The Marine Wildlife Protection Bill would also amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to make it an offence intentionally or recklessly to disturb dolphins, porpoises or whales in any location; basking sharks; or any seabird in a breeding, moulting roosting or breeding
Introducing the Bill, Helen Brinton, Labour MP for Peterborough, said the government had signalled its intention to introduce new marine legislation. Last month shipping minister Keith Hill announced a number of voluntary measures, comprising a code of conduct for all
types of recreational craft including wetbikes.
But she added: 'The need for the measures proposed in my Bill, however, is urgent. The incidence of harassment is increasing, as is the use of small, fast personal watercraft. Yet there has never been a prosecution for such harassment in this country. There must be
zones known to be important to wildlife where it can be free from such harassment.
'The concept of recklessness is an essential element in the control of harassment because it is extremely difficult, in the marine context, to prove that any disturbance is deliberate. It is necessary to extend enforcement powers to locally designated officers other than the police and to give them the appropriate sanctions'.
The Bill is unlikely to reach the statute book this session unless it wins favour with the government. More likely, it could be incorporated in the govenment's promised marine legislation.