Skip to main content

Guidance on seal watching

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: marine conservation

Getting close to seals is best avoided for all concerned. This for both the welfare of the animal and also the person involved.

guidance on interacting with seals

The warmer weather may tempt you towards the coast and learning more about the marine environment. When doing so it’s important you consider both your own safety and that of any animals you may encounter.

Swimming with seals

Whether swimming with, feeding, photographing or catching Pokemon versions of them – getting close to seals is best avoided.

You should remember that seals, sometimes referred to as charismatic megafauna, may look cute but are also large wild animals.

Protected species

Both grey seals and common or harbour seals are protected species and there is legislation covering their illegal harm, taking or killing. In some areas of the UK we have additional protection in the form of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs include:

  • European Marine Sites (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas)
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) with marine components
  • Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)

Within these sites activities that could negatively impact the protected features, such as disturbance of seals by human activity, may be an offence.

Details of the legislation relevant to seals and the areas in which they have additional protection is available on the Government website.

The JNCC website explains the Special Areas of Conservation relating to grey seals and common/harbour seals.

'Catching Pokemon' in a Marine Conservation Zone


Coquet to St Mary's MCZ

Areas around St Mary’s Island are legally protected and managed as part of the Coquet to St Mary’s MCZ. Although seals are not a designated feature of the MCZ visitors to the site should be mindful of their habitat and need to maintain this.

Want to know more about the work of the Marine Management Organisation? Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Kevin J Murphy frsph posted on

    Excellent advice.

    Can this be publicised more for members of the public to know about as we as various animal groups, as lots of misinformation is given out, regarding seals.

    • Replies to Kevin J Murphy frsph>

      Comment by carlharvey posted on

      Thank you for your positive feedback Kevin. We often share this information on our social media channels and would be happy for you to do the same.