Wildlife Watching Code

Marine Wildlife Watching


Not as much 'Common-Sense' as you would think!


(Guides Top - Strandings Below)


By Sea - By Land (Sea based Observation followed by Land based).

How close is too close?


That very much depends on your location, what you are looking at and how they have been treated in the past. A general guideline for seals is keep at least 150m away, or if three of more seals are looking at you, then you are too close.


The following guides should help both the observer and the observed.

This Basking shark picture was taken in the Sea of the Hebrides. The boat was adrift and the shark came to the boat.

By Sea


Watching wildlife by sea can be exhilarating but getting 'caught up' in the moment can also cause problems for wildlife if you get too close or effectively entrap the animals.

Please follow the details on the graphic below.

Only one boat at any one time anywhere near the point of interest.


Move slowly, better still turn engines off and let the animals come to you should they want to.

Don't assess where they are going and head them off.


Too close for comfort: 30 to 40 tonnes of Humpback breaching. The warning signs (deep throaty rumbles, pictorial fin slapping and finally a breach) were not known/ignored.

Dolphins often approach boats, maintain a steady course at low speed or stop.



Keeping an eye out for other boat users and full observations on what the observed is doing/going.

You would think that watching wild animals would come with a 'common-sense', responsible attitude; unfortunately, all too often it does not.


Wild animals are just that: WILD! Many have teeth, some are poisonous, and many carry diseases some of which are transmittable to humans and dogs.


There have been reports of seals killing dogs and dolphins attacking humans.


Codes have been drawn up, this site focuses on the Scottish environment and laws, please be aware that different laws apply to different animals in different countries. Some like Cetaceans are covered by global agreements.


Minke whale of Coll

Left alone and observed in its natural habitat.

By Land


Observing wildlife by land can be a rewarding experience, from a clifftop or harbour pier can give rewards without disturbance. Please check on access and restrictions including birdlife.


Observing from a beach can be frought with problems, in the case of seals it can cause mass stampedes which can kill or injure seals especially pups.


Move slowly, keep dogs on a lead and under control and quiet. Approach no closer than 150 metres.

If three of more seals are watching you then you are too close: Back-Off, slowly.


If the animals are in the water MC strongly recommends not to enter and do not let your dogs enter the water.

Dogs have been killed by seals and people have been attacked by dolphins and bitten by seals.


Seals can carry pathogens which can transpose to dogs, possibly humans, these might kill: Keep your distance!

The two links below are both for Marine Wildlife Watching.

The button on the left is the new website. MC has linked the two sites as both contain useful information.

Marine Wildlife Watching Code



The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime UK (PAW UK)

Helping statutory and non-government organisations to work together to combat wildlife crime.


PAW’s objectives are to:


Raise awareness of wildlife legislation and the impacts of wildlife crime

Help and advise on wildlife crime and regulatory issues

Will make sure wildlife crime is tackled effectively

There are two links below to PAW, there is also a mobile App which you can download to your phone/mobile device which makes the reporting of wildlife crime easy.


Strandings: Info. at a Glance.


If you can Please Provide the following Information:

(take pictures on your phone or camera)

•Where is it? (add a GPS or Grid position if you can)

•What is it? (if you know)

•Is it Alive OR Dead?

•How big is it?

•How fresh is it?

•Are there any signs of injury?


Keep Away! Keep Dogs Away!


Contact Numbers Below


Porpoise, injuries from a boat strike.

Acoustic deterrents are used by salmon farms close to where this mammal was recovered, these deterrents are known to adversely effect porpoise.

This female common seal was pregnant. One bullet, two lives!

Closed containment would prevent most of the damaging effects of salmon farming, yet there is no encouragement to utilise this technology.

Contacts Alive


Scottish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) 03000 999 999

(RSPCA in England & Wales 0300 1234 999)


British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) 01825 765 546 (out of hours: 07787 433412)

Police 999 If the animal is in distress or danger


Contacts Dead


Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Hotline (SAC) 01463 243030

Police, use a local number if you can


In England & Wales Environment Agency 0800 807 060


Use a long lens and software magnifcation rather than disturbing wildlife


You never know what depends on your actions

NB. All photographic stills are copyright © of Mark-MC.


For more of Mark's images please follow the link below.

Follow the link below to join in on the Marine Concern Facebook Page