Beach stock image. Picture: Pixabay.

A summer initiative has been launched to protect wildlife and habitats along Norfolk’s coast.

The county’s police force has signed up to the national Operation Seabird to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving wildlife habitats and tackling disturbance to seals, sea birds and nesting birds.

Officers will be out meeting visitors at beaches including Holkham, Holme, Snettisham and Heacham until the end of August.

Rural crime officer PC Chris Shelley said: “We always work closely with conservation charities, local councils and other key partners right along Norfolk’s coastline to identify areas of concern.

“We’re proud to be taking part in Operation Seabird this year and our focus will be on protecting our vulnerable ground nesting sea birds, the Little Terns and Ringed Plover, ensuring the seals on our beaches are not disturbed and educating and encouraging visitors to be responsible and consider how their actions may affect our wildlife.

“We all have a duty to act responsibly and take extra care when we’re out and about. While the focus of Operation Seabird is to engage, explain and educate visitors, we will act against anybody who wilfully and intentionally damages and disrupts our wildlife and their habitats.”

Last week, the RSPB released footage of five quad bikers riding across nesting sites at Snettisham beach in April.

Police said previous coastline incidents had included dogs off leads disturbing nesting birds or seals, wild campers lighting fires on beaches, 4×4 vehicles riding over nesting areas and canoeists getting too close to seals.

RSPCA Inspector Becky Harper said: “This year we are expecting an upsurge in people, who would normally go abroad for holidays, doing UK-based staycations.

 “It should be remembered that our beautiful beach and coastal areas, which are fun for us to play in, are natural habitats and breeding grounds for many native and migratory animals, including several species on the endangered list. 

“We humans share this space and we can easily and unwittingly cause disturbance, fear and distress.”

She said visitors can find it exciting to see seals and their pups resting on beaches and might be tempted to approach them or take selfies.

They have been urged not to do this, to keep dogs on leads where instructed and stick to paths.

Disturbance to wildlife and habitats should be reported to police on 101.

Anyone who witnesses the deliberate and intentional disturbance of wildlife and their habitats is encouraged to contact Norfolk Police on 101 quoting Operation Seabird.