Top tips for beachgoers: Keeping coastal wildlife safe

Erin O'Neill By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 3 July 2020

Unprecedented amounts of people have been visiting our outdoor spaces recently, and with good reason! With lockdown restrictions starting to ease in many parts of the UK and glorious sunshine making getting outdoors all the more tempting, our coasts and beaches are soon to see a welcome influx of tourism. While it’s great that we’re all able to start getting back to some kind of normal it’s important to remember that we share these spots with amazing coastal wildlife.

Emily Cunningham, Marine Biologist and Trustee of the Marine Conservation Society said, “Seeing marine wildlife is an amazing experience, but it’s up to us to make sure our enjoyment doesn’t cause the animals harm or stress.”

hastings beach chill
© Green.TV

Seeing marine wildlife is an amazing experience, but it’s up to us to make sure our enjoyment doesn’t cause the animals harm or stress.

Emily Cunningham,
Marine biologist and MCS Trustee

“This is especially important at this time of year, when many of our British marine creatures are pregnant, rearing chicks or nursing their babies. As restrictions lift and many of us head to the coast, please make sure to give our wildlife the extra space they need to raise their young.”

Read on for some helpful tips on how to be a responsible beachgoer.


There are two types of seahorses in UK waters (spiny and short-snouted) both of which are protected. If you’re snorkelling or diving and come across a seahorse, don’t touch them and don’t use flash to take photos – briefly watch from a distance and swim calmly away. Male seahorses are pregnant at this time of year so it’s extra important not to disturb them.

Short snouted seahorse


Beach nesting birds like little terns, ringed plovers and oystercatchers lay their eggs directly onto sand or shingle - these are very well camouflaged and at risk of disturbance from beach visitors and dogs. There is usually signage and fencing at major colonies, be mindful and keep dogs on a lead when nearby. If you do spot any eggs in the sand do not touch or move them – it’s actually an offence to take or destroy the egg of any wild bird.


Whales, dolphins or porpoise

Whales, dolphins and porpoise are large, unpredictable animals; getting too close is not only distressing for them, but could easily cause you harm. It is illegal to touch, feed or swim with whales, dolphins or porpoise – this can make them stressed or encourage them to get used to human interaction. This is particularly important at this time of year as many will be nursing their babies.

Porpoise pair


Grey and common seals are found around the UK. They give birth in the summer and mothers will be suckling their pups on land - it is important to give them extra space, whether on foot or at sea. All year round, seals haul out onto shore to rest or digest their food and should be left alone. Never chase a seal back into the sea. If you are concerned about a seal’s welfare please contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

Grey seal in winter

Boats, kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis

While at sea stay at least 100m away from any animals. Do not approach them - if they begin to approach you keep moving slowly and on a predictable course. Avoid groups or mothers and young completely. Engines should be switched to neutral if animals are close. Stay alert, boat skippers have been prosecuted in England for reckless disturbance of dolphins.

Kayak Scotland


We’re seeing higher levels of litter on our beaches and coasts, posing a threat to wildlife and humans. Discarded throwing disks can get caught around the necks of seals causing serious injury, birds can get tangled in our rubbish and many creatures may mistake it for food. Don’t ever leave litter in the environment and take it home with you if bins are overflowing, reduced council cleaning services mean that keeping our beaches beautiful is everyone’s responsibility. Remember to #KeepItClean!

Beach Litter

If you’re planning on visiting the beach please do so safely, and within the current government advice on coronavirus and social distancing. If you’re going solo, tell someone where you’re headed, bring a phone with plenty of charge and check that there will be signal at your destination.

Actions you can take