A General Code of Conduct for All Sites
For an introduction to Ramsar and the Channel Islands Ramsar initiative sites click here.
On the Coast
Wildlife. All wildlife and their habitats are sensitive to disturbance and need to be treated with respect and understanding. A wide variety of seabirds rely on the coastlines of the Channel Islands to feed, rest and nest, and an array of marine life is exposed at low tide. It is therefore recommended that, before visiting a site, visitors gain an understanding of the wildlife they may encounter, be aware of ways in which to avoid disturbance, and understand any legal restrictions that may apply. Disturbance can range significantly across different species, sites, activities, seasons etc. For detailed advice see the Species Specific Codes of Conduct section.
Rockpools. Do not trample through rockpools, and if you turn over rocks, return them to their original position to preserve the environment beneath. Studies show it can take 5 to 10 years for the species hosted on the rock to recover if left upturned. Try to refrain from handling the marine life you find – it can be sensitive to rough handling. If you do, handle them with care and put them back where you found them.
Coastal paths. Stay on coastal paths and nature trails where possible, taking care not to needlessly damage, collect, or move plants, animals, or stones. Deviating from cliff paths can cause structural damage to the cliffs, as well as possible disturbance to wildlife. Remember that some cliff paths may cross private property.
Vehicles. Each island has its own rules and regulations relating to driving and parking vehicles on the beach, and riding horses and bikes (including push bikes, electric bikes, and motorbikes). Please refer either to the site-specific codes, or contact local authorities for details. For the purposes of this code amphibious vehicles, such as “SeaLegs” vessels, are also to be considered as ‘vehicles’ in relation to driving and parking on beaches.
Dogs and horses. Each island has its own regulations as to when and where dogs and horses can be exercised. Owners should always prevent their animal from chasing wildlife as this can cause significant disturbance and is likely to be a breach of the law. Please pick up after your dog and dispose of the waste in a public bin, or take it home with you. Please don’t leave dog mess in a plastic bag at the side of the path or hanging on trees or fences; this is a littering offence.
Litter & beach cleans. Bring bags for dog mess, a portable ash tray for cigarette butts, and take all litter home. Beach cleans and litter picking are encouraged around the shorelines of the Channel Islands. However, care should be taken not to inadvertently disturb wildlife such as ground and shore nesting birds.
Barbecues. Ensure you check whether barbecues are permitted in the area that you are visiting as in some areas, such as Guernsey’s coastal grasslands, they are not permitted. If they are allowed, ensure you take appropriate equipment and always ensure you leave the site as you found it.
Photography. ‘Take only photographs, leave only footprints’. Photograph things you want to later identify, avoiding disturbance through use of a telephoto lens to avoid getting too close to your subject, and by not using flash photography. Photograph wild flowers rather than picking them.
Drones. For the prevention of disturbance to wildlife, drone users should be particularly cautious when operating in coastal areas as birds and hauled out seals may be easily disturbed by a drone flying nearby. Drones should be landed at the first sign of disturbance. Some sites, for examples Les Ecrehous and Les Minquiers, have specific exclusion dates and areas that visitors should be aware of, principally a ban during the nesting season (April to August). Please see the site-specific codes for details. Aviation legislation and local Drone Codes of Conduct must be adhered to at all times, particularly in relation to proximity to privately owned property.
Safety & Respect. Respect the peace and quiet of the natural habitats and avoid disturbing residents and other visitors. Follow a common sense approach, observing official area-specific signage and act with caution. The Channel Islands have a large rise and fall of tide, meaning the sea level can rise very quickly. Ensure you are aware of the time of high and low water to avoid becoming stranded.
On the Sea
Wildlife. All wildlife and their habitats are sensitive to disturbance and need to be treated with respect and understanding. A wide variety of marine mammals, fish, and seabirds rely on the coastlines of the Channel Islands to feed, rest, and nest. It is therefore recommended that, before visiting a site, visitors gain an understanding of the wildlife they may encounter, be aware of ways in which to avoid disturbance, and understand any legal restrictions that may apply. Disturbance can range significantly across different species, sites, activities, seasons etc. For detailed advice see the Species Specific Codes of Conduct section.
Boating. There are a number of considerations for boat users within Channel Island waters, from anchoring away from sensitive areas such as seagrass beds, to maintaining a good look out both for other people and the wildlife with which we share these waters. In-depth boating guidelines and advice can be found within materials such as Cruising Guides and tide table booklets.
Fishing – Regulations. When fishing within the Channel Islands please adhere to local fishing regulations. These cover matters such as closed seasons, bag limits, minimum landing sizes, and gear restrictions. Catch for personal consumption, not for sale or financial gain. Details can be found on local government websites, and within materials such as Cruising Guides and tide table booklets.
Fishing – Best Practice. Return all catch you do not intend to use alive to the sea to help conserve stocks. Place discarded tackle and other rubbish in bins or take it home for disposal. For some species circle hooks can reduce the incidence of deep hooking, so consider using them as a conservation measure. Advise local authorities of any activity that appears to contravene the regulations.
Respect. Respect the rights of others to also enjoy the Channel Islands’ marine and coastal environment. Avoid conflict with other marine and coastal users by adhering to the relevant Fisheries and Harbours’ regulations and relevant codes of conduct.
Waste. Any litter you take out to sea with you should be brought back to shore and disposed of appropriately. It is an offence to dump any waste – liquid or solid – into the sea. All waste should be retained and disposed of in the appropriate facilities on shore.
Guided Tours. When exploring the marine environment, it is often advisable to go with an accredited and experienced guide who knows the local area well. A list of WiSe (Wildlife Safe) accredited guides and companies from across the Channel Islands can be found on the Tour Operators page and the Channel Island Ramsar webiste (www.ci-ramsar.com).
Sports. Ensure you follow safety codes of conduct for your specific sport. Get in touch with local clubs, who may have useful locally based codes for you to follow – for example the Jersey Canoe Club, the Jersey Rock Climbing Club, the Jersey Kite Surfing Club, Alderney Sailing Club or their equivalents in the other Channel Islands.
In the Sea
Wildlife. All wildlife and their habitats are sensitive to disturbance and need to be treated with respect and understanding. It is therefore recommended that, before visiting a site, visitors gain an understanding of the wildlife they may encounter, be aware of ways in which to avoid disturbance, and understand any other legal restrictions that may apply. Disturbance can range significantly across different species, sites, activities, seasons etc. For detailed advice see the Species Specific Codes of Conduct section.
Swimming and diving around the Channel Islands with its abundant marine life can be a very rewarding experience both offshore and in the more sheltered bays. The privilege afforded to snorkelers and divers of exploring otherwise inaccessible places comes with a particular responsibility to avoid disturbance.
Swimming. Swimmers should remain aware of and enjoy the marine life around them, and follow the parts of this Code where possible and appropriate. It is not advisable to swim with large marine animals. However, if you find yourself in the water near one, stay at least 4 metres away, be wary of the tail and refrain from touching or feeding them.
Diving. If diving, ensure you can control your movements and buoyancy and that your gauges, octopus regulators, torches and other equipment are secure. This will help to avoid damaging wildlife and plants attached to the seabed or smothering them in clouds of sand or mud. Take care not to cause damage with your fins. The Ramsar sites in the Channel Islands are home to species such as cold-water corals, which are particularly vulnerable to physical damage.
Wait until you have become a competent diver with precise control of your movements and buoyancy before taking underwater pictures. A flash is usually required, so avoid taking multiple pictures of the same animal. If using a torch, be careful not to dazzle and disturb wildlife. Use the edge of a beam rather than shining it directly at any wildlife.