General Wildlife Guidance
Observing. If you are lucky enough to spot wildlife, try not to stay too long, particularly if your observation is attracting other watchers. Disturbance is likely to increase as the number of people watching increases. Aim to spend no more than 15 minutes in their presence, and if the area starts to become over crowded with other users you should move away. Avoid especially sensitive areas which are known for nesting, breeding, resting and feeding. The site-specific codes contain details of special areas within each of the Ramsar sites.
Distance. The distance at which many marine mammals and seabirds show signs of disturbance varies tremendously, depending on the location, time of day, whether they are feeding, resting, the type of approach, whether the animals are used to being watched and whether they have young with them. Be responsive to their behaviour and be prepared modify your route and plans. If in doubt – move away. As a general guide, keep a distance of 100 metres from a marine animal, unless it approaches you – they can be very curious when not stressed.
Sightings. Record wildlife sightings via the ‘Dolphin Watch’ app hosted on Epicollect 5 (see ‘Dolphins’ section) and all others via iRecord.
Approaching Wildlife. Whilst it is advisable not to approach any wildlife, if you choose to do so, stop and assess what the animals are doing, where they are going, and what you can do to avoid disturbing them. Then follow these basic guidelines:
- Reduce speed to the minimum consistent with safety in order to approach slowly and cautiously;
- Make sure that your movements are steady and predictable;
- Do not approach from a direct angle (i.e. from directly in front or directly behind). This can be perceived as a threat;
- Make sure that animals are not surrounded or boxed in within enclosed bays.
Wildlife Approaching You. If any wildlife decides to approach you, for example to bow ride, maintain a steady speed and course where possible. Try not to present propellers to approaching animals, let them decide how close they want you to be, and move away if any wildlife appears to become distressed. Do not chase wildlife – if they move away, let them.
Interacting with Wildlife. For your safety and the health of the wildlife, never attempt to swim, touch or feed wild animals. They can cause personal injury and there is the potential for contracting diseases and passing on human diseases to them. If you are rock pooling, try to avoid touching or picking up small animals. If you do, handle them with care and put them back where you found them.
Photography. Photographing wildlife can be a very rewarding experience. To minimise disturbance, try to keep your distance by using a telephoto lens and avoid using flash photography. Binoculars are also useful to view wildlife in preference to a close approach.
Reporting Disturbance. If you see anyone recklessly disturbing or harassing wildlife please report it to the relevant authorities. Photographic evidence may be of assistance, where appropriate. Contact details can be found within this site.
Rescues. Do not attempt to rescue wildlife that appears abandoned or injured. If you see a stranded or deceased animal, please note the location, species type (eg seal, dolphin), approximate size, and call the relevant authority (below). To avoid the transmission of desease we advse you not to touch the animal and keep dogs on leads and away from the area.
Wildlife Trust Office – 01481 822935
Marine Ecologist Dr Broadhurst-Allen – 07781 453976
Alderney Animal Welfare Centre – 01481 822610
GSPCA – 01481 257261
Jersey Animal Shelter – 01534 724331 / 07797 720331 (24 hour emergency number)
The Constable of Sark – 07781 101908
The Channel Islands’ coastlines and offshore reefs and islets have nationally and internationally important populations of seabirds. Birds may feel threatened by human presence, causing them to display behaviours that may result in stress and physical injury. When observing wild birds ensure that you do not alter their natural behaviour.
This can be achieved by:
- Keeping noise to a minimum
- Approaching birds no closer than 100 metres
- Observing birds’ behaviour from a distance using binoculars and/or telephoto lenses.
Particular care should be taken in areas where they feed, rest, and nest.
FEEDING. If birds are startled whilst feeding, they may take flight and/or regurgitate food meant for their young.
RESTING. Birds will often congregate both on land and on the water simply to rest. On the water, alter your route to avoid causing disturbance to rafting birds (birds sitting on the water). Be sensitive to wind direction and engine fumes if your vessel is under motor. On the land, ensure a safe distance of more than 100m is maintained whenever possible to ensure the birds do not fly away. The following behaviours indicate preparedness to fly. If you observe any of these behaviours move away and allow the birds to settle:
- Head craning and turning
- Head bobbing
- Wing flapping in situ.
NESTING. Areas where birds nest include shingle banks, enclosed bays, gullies and cliffs. April to August is a particularly sensitive time as birds come ashore to nest, so it is recommended that visitors are especially aware of disturbance during these times. Never walk through a nesting site as this may have a devastating effect on the birds and may cause irreversible damage to nests or nesting birds. For example, some species such as guillemots and razorbills incubate eggs on their feet; if they fly off ledges in a panic, their eggs can be dislodged and destroyed. Some other signs of disturbance are most often displayed within breeding areas. If you observe any of these signs move away immediately:
- Swooping and dive-bombing observers
- Making loud calling noises
- Appearing aggressive and agitated.
You should also be aware of any site-specific restrictions and/or regulations within the area you are visiting.
We are very fortunate to share our waters with Atlantic grey seals. They are protected by law and so, given their sensitivity to disturbance, care should be taken when observing them so as not to cause unnecessary harm.
FEEDING. Seals will often be found feeding in shallow waters, particularly around offshore reefs. When in shallow water be aware of submerged seals. If you do come across a seal in the water, ensure it can move away from you easily – never box them into a gully or pool.
RESTING. Seals will regularly haul out onto rocks to rest and digest. If they feel threatened, they can panic dive into the sea, often causing serious physical damage. Broken claws can become infected, and expectant mothers can risk harming their unborn pups. To avoid disturbing them during this time the following is advised:
- Observe seals from a distance of 100 metres using binoculars.
- Avoid staring or pointing at seals, as they find this behaviour intimidating.
- Seals should be approached slowly and from a sideways angle to reduce stress. By approaching from directly in front you may be perceived as a predator.
- Care should be taken when using non-motorised vessels. Vessels with low or no engine noise are less likely to be heard, which may result in seals being startled or even in collision.
BREEDING. Seals haul out to have their pups on just a few locations around the Channel Islands, usually from August to the end of November. Mothers will be additionally sensitive to disturbance during this time, so extra care is advised. Specifically;
- Never place yourself between a mother and pup, particularly young pups left on beaches. Adult females generally rest underwater 10-30 metres from the shore.
- Landing or mooring close to young pups may distress nearby parents and prevent them feeding or approaching their young.
If a seal shows signs of distress immediately move away slowly. The first signs are called the ‘tripwire moment’, which include:
- Head erect and whiskers bristling
- Nervous movement
- Shuffling or milling if on rock/beach.
Signs of major disturbance include:
- Rapid swimming to and fro
- Sudden panic diving if in the sea
- Stampede into the sea if disturbed whilst on land
You should also be aware of any site-specific restriction and/or regulations within the area you are visiting.
This code refers primarily to dolphins, as these are the most common cetacean found within Channel Island waters; however, it should be noted that the following points are applicable to any cetaceans you may encounter.
Dolphins, porpoises, whales and other cetaceans share these waters with you. They are sensitive to disturbance and are protected by law. Our actions can disturb their daily activities and even cause injury. The following general advice can minimise stress to cetaceans when encountered at sea. The advice can also benefit your encounters.
- On sighting dolphins, vessels should gradually slow down to a speed no greater than 5 knots, keeping a distance of 100 metres.
- If they choose to approach you, for example to bow-ride, maintain your intended course, avoiding any unpredictable or erratic movements.
- Move away slowly if you notice signs of disturbance, such as:
- Hasty dives
- Attempts to leave the area or move away from the vessel
- Erratic changes in speed and direction
- Lengthy periods underwater
- Aggressive behaviours, such as tail slaps and trumpet blows
- Avoid driving between groups of dolphins, and specifically between a mother and her calf.
- Always allow cetaceans an escape route, and avoid boxing them into a smaller area.
- If safe, switch off all sonar equipment when near dolphins as this can affect their communication and navigation.
- If you discover a solitary dolphin, try to avoid interacting with it by maintaining a steady speed and direction. If you are followed into a harbour or marina by a dolphin contact the Harbour authorities (see Contacts list).
- For your health and safety and for that of the cetaceans do not seek to swim with, touch or feed them.
You should also be aware of any site-specific restriction and/or regulations within the area you are visiting.
‘Dolphin Watch’ App: Jersey’s Environment Department, in conjunction with the Société Jersiaise & Société Guernsiaise Marine Biology Sections, has several different projects which aim to document and better understand the nature of marine mammals in the Channel Islands. All marine mammal sightings are recorded through ‘Dolphin Watch’ which is a smartphone app, hosted on Epicollect5. The app is open to the public and is used in the field while the encounter is happening. Accordingly, it is aimed primarily at boat owners. All records submitted are then publicly accessible via the Epicollect5 and Société Jersiaise websites.
Since it’s launch in April 2017, hundreds of dolphin sightings have been made via the app each year. This dataset is already providing a much greater understanding on the abundance and distribution of our dolphin, porpoise and seal species. Below is a link to a map showing the location of all marine mammal sightings using Epicollect app.
Available online at: http://www.jerseycoast.co.uk/dolphins.html
Appendix 1: Species Names
Please note, the species listed below are those mentioned by common name within this document. It is not a complete list of all the species found in the Channel Islands Ramsar Sites.
|Common Name||Latin / Scientific Name|
|Atlantic grey seal||Halichoerus grypus|
|Basking shark||Cetorhinus maximus|
|Black sea bream||Spondyliosoma cantharus|
|Bottlenose dolphin||Tursiops truncatus|
|Brent geese||Branta bernicla|
|Common tern||Sterna hirundo|
|Greater black-backed gull||Larus marinus|
|Grey seal||Halichoerus grypus|
|Herring gull||Larus argentatus|
|Lesser black-backed gull||Larus fuscus|
|Northern gannet||Morus bassanus|
|Peregrine falcon||Falco peregrinus|
|Sun fish||Mola mola|