Police have identified two boat owners in connection with the death of a baby dolphin that was mowed down in the Camel Estuary last summer.
Wildlife Crime officers launched an investigation in July after the juvenile bottlenose dolphin was killed near Padstow.
Today officers confirmed two skippers have admitted reckless disturbance of the dolphins – an offence which under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/ or a £5000 fine.
The investigating officer PC Allerton-Baldwin said the death of the young animal was not deliberate but caused by ignorance.
“There is no evidence that anybody went out on that day with the intention of contributing to the death of a dolphin,” he said.
“On the contrary, the two individuals interviewed clearly acted out of ignorance of the law and whilst that may be the case, ignorance of the law is no defence.”
Police said the two skippers will be dealt with via a restorative justice scheme.
Both will now complete the Wildlife Safe (WiSe) course, which teaches boat users how to view marine wildlife safely, responsibly and within the law.
“Legislation exists to protect this wildlife and where evidence of an offence exists the police will investigate,” Mr Allerton-Baldwin explained.
“However, we also have a responsibility to prevent crime and hope this particular case will serve to raise awareness not only of the legislation but also of the perhaps unforeseen outcome should offences be committed, in this case the death of a rare dolphin in British waters.”
The two boat owners were identified after police, with the assistance of the Padstow harbour master and staff, secured video footage, photographs and witness statements detailing the events of the day.
On July 20 2013 the pod of dolphins was joined by a flotilla of approximately 25 private leisure vessels for approximately three and a quarter hours.
A representative from the police said the evidence showed the flotilla encircled the animals while other vessels were seen driving through the pod at high speed.
The charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue welcomed the news that those responsible had been found and hoped the case will prevent similar incidents in future.
Stephen Marsh, operations manager at British Divers Marine Life said: “We would like to thank the North Cornwall Marine and Coastal Policing Team for their diligence and determination to conclude this investigation successfully and also the members of public who were able to assist.
He added: “Whilst we are pleased that the perpetrators of this sad incident have been dealt with, it could have been avoided if all the boaters in the area had stayed well away from the animals and observed them at a safe distance. Hopefully the result from the police operation will serve as a reminder to all that wildlife crime is taken seriously and also that disturbance of dolphins is not only illegal, but can have severe consequences.”