Monday, August 04, 2008

Basic Ocean Etiquette

The following guidelines were developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They are intended to help you enjoy watching marine wildlife without causing them harm or placing your personal safety at risk. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and it is best to follow location or species-specific guidelines if they are available.

Learn before you go. Many marine wildlife species have specific habitat needs and sensitive lifecycle requirements. Use the internet, guidebooks, and knowledgeable people to learn how to observe wildlife responsibly where you plan to visit them.

Keep your distance. Getting too close to animals can be harmful to them and to you. Take precaution and use binoculars that let you view animals from a distance where they won’t be disturbed.

Hands off. Touching wildlife, or attempting to do so, can injure the animal, put you at risk, and may be illegal for most protected species.

Do not feed or attract marine wildlife. Feeding or attempting to attract wildlife may harm animals by causing sickness, death, and habituation to people. Animals that are accustomed to humans become vulnerable to injuries and can be dangerous.

Never chase or harass wildlife. Do not surround, trap or separate animals, approach them head on, or approach them directly from behind. Make sure they know you are there before they see you.

Stay away from wildlife that appear abandoned or sick. Animals that appear sick may not be. They may be resting or are young awaiting the return of a parent. If animals are approached, their behavior may become aggressive. If you think an animal is sick or injured, contact local authorities.

Wildlife and pets don’t mix. Wild animals can injure and spread diseases to pets, and pets can harm and disturb wildlife. If you are traveling with pets, keep them leashed and away from wildlife. Please help us get the word out that it is against the law to let your dog on any LA City or LA County beach on or off leash at any time!

Lend a hand with trash removal. Human garbage and fishing debris are some of the greatest threats to marine wildlife. Carry a trash bag with you and pick up litter found along the shore.

Help others to become responsible wildlife watchers and tour operators. Lead by example. It’s up to you! Obtain and carry a few copies of these guidelines on your travels and share them with others. Patronize businesses that follow these guidelines. Protecting and conserving is everyone’s responsibility.

How you can help:

  • Become Ocean Literate.
  • Treat our coasts, oceans, and the animals that live there with care.
  • Actively participate in local, state and federal efforts to protect and manage coastal and ocean resources.
For marine mammal strandings and violations call NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1.800.853.1964.

Federal Laws Protecting Wildlife

Marine Mammal Protection Act: The MMPA prohibits the “take” of marine mammals. “Take” includes actions such as hunting, harassing, killing, capturing, injuring, and disturbing a marine mammal. For more information consult the text of the MMPA at

Endangered Species Act: The ESA prohibits the “take” of a threatened or endangered species in U.S. territorial waters. “Take” under the ESA means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. For more information consult the text of the ESA at

National Marine Sanctuaries Act: The NMSA provides authority for comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management of national marine sanctuaries, and activities affecting them, in a manner which complements existing regulatory authorities. NOAA develops regulations for each sanctuary that are responsive to their specific issues, needs and goals. For more information visit

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act: The MBTA prohibits the pursuit, take, capture, kill, sale, purchase, or transport of migratory birds and their parts (including eggs, nests, and feathers) or attempt to engage in such conduct. For more information consult the text of the MBTA at

Contributors to these guidelines include NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, NOAA Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife, Watchable Wildlife, Inc., International Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, and a number of state and regional agencies, organizations, and institutions.