The continuing “reckless behaviour” of a jetskier which could have caused serious harm to the country’s most important mainland seabird colony justifies a two-year ban on him riding his machine in the area, a court was told.
A tribunal in York heard Tim Evans first came to the authorities’ attention last June when horrified wildlife lovers on board the Yorkshire Belle saw him and other jetskiers ploughing through hundreds of seabirds, sending them into a “mad panic” after approaching at speeds of up to 25mph.
Mr Evans, of Maple Grove, York, is appealing against a “stop” notice preventing him jetskiing within 2km of the RSPB’s spectacular Bempton Cliffs reserve which has a breeding colony of 250,000 birds and is a protected site of special scientific interest.
His appeal is being contested by Natural England whose barrister Stephanie Coates said yesterday that the ban was aimed not only as a deterrent against Mr Evans, but other members of the jetskiing community “who will see Natural England takes this matter very seriously.”
Tim Birch, from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who was among the passengers on the Yorkshire Belle, said other passengers were “visibly distressed” by the jetskiers’ “completely reckless behaviour” at the height of the bird breeding season, adding: “The speed you were doing set them in a mad panic - as far as I can recall you were almost literally driving over the birds.”
The police investigated and three jetskiers including Mr Evans, who were identified from the registration numbers on their jet skis were warned it could amount to a criminal offence and they were also written to by Natural England. Mr Evans refused to take two letters sent to him by special delivery.
Despite the warning, he was seen with another jetskier driving through a group of juvenile gannets in September by RSPB senior investigations officer Mark Thomas.
Mr Thomas, who was monitoring seabirds from the clifftops, said they were going at “full throttle” and the birds were “collateral”: “At the speed they were going there was no slowing down. They were in the way of the jetskiers; they were going through them, that was that.”
Mr Thomas said if the birds had been disturbed in that way during the key breeding season from May to June it could have proved catastrophic, causing adult birds to abandon their eggs or young. “I was only thankful that the event occurred in September,” he added.
Mr Evans, however, said after the first incident he had agreed with police that a code of conduct was the way forward, but had met a stone wall when trying to progress the matter further. He disputed the second incident saying they had not driven between any birds and the sea was “empty” with “not a single bird in sight”.
He said the ban meant that he would be forced to go 2km offshore leaving him with the option of “being put in prison, fined, or dying if the weather changes”, adding: “Is that fair or correct?”
He said he had expressed his willingness to spread the message to other jetskiers, but had been “ignored.”
However Miss Coates said there had been a code of conduct for some years, which while not explicit was “pretty clear” that people should be quiet and have respect for nature, and it was a matter of common sense, not education.
Judge Christopher Hughes said he would prepare a written judgement, which would be issued within two weeks.