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23 June, 2017

New look for updated Marine Code

A best practice code for watching marine wildlife around Scotland’s coasts has been revised, updated and re-launched by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code (SMWWC) aims to promote enjoyment of marine wildlife and raise awareness about the best ways to watch animals including dolphins, birds, seals, otters, whales and basking sharks. It provides guidance on how best to enjoy watching these animals without disturbing or harming them.

The code, originally launched in 2006, has been updated to reflect changes in legislation, advances in technology and updated contacts.

The SMWWC is complemented by a 62 page Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife. Packed with superb photos, the guide provides additional information about the animals you are most likely to see in the seas around Scotland, along with practical guidance on responsible behaviour around these animals.

Both documents can be freely downloaded from SNH’s website and special water-proof printed versions have been issued to marine wildlife tour boat operators.

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s seas are magnificent for marine wildlife watching and attract visitors from around the world which is why it’s so important that we do all we can to protect the iconic marine species that live in our waters. The newly revised code will encourage people to enjoy the natural environment in a respectful and responsible manner.”

The SMWWC was developed through widespread consultation, particularly with wildlife tourism operators. The Code is designed for all those who watch marine wildlife around Scotland, whether they are on the shore or at sea. It is not a law or regulation - its main purpose is to raise awareness and offer practical guidance for responsible marine wildlife watching.

Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, said: “Scotland’s seas are home to a fantastic range of marine animals which attracts wildlife watchers from around the world. Recent studies estimate that wildlife watching in coastal and marine areas accounts for £163 million in tourist expenditure each year.

“Pioneering work such as our basking shark tagging project is starting to reveal just how important our waters are for many marine species. The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code is all about ensuring that we can enjoy having these animals in Scottish seas, and the benefits they bring, for generations to come.”

The Marine Code is full of useful information on how to act responsibly around our marine wildlife – much in the same way as the Outdoor Access Code does for land-based wildlife.

Colin Speedie, founder of the WiSE accreditation scheme for wildlife watching said: “This Code offers a clear and coherent guide to the best ways for individuals to interact with our precious marine wildlife, and so it both reduces risks to the animals and enhances our enjoyment of their company. As such, it deserves a place aboard every boat in Scottish waters.”

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: “Our natural environment is one of the top reasons people choose to visit Scotland. We are renowned as a place of outstanding beauty, home to some of the most rare and endangered species on the British Isles. Scotland is arguably one of the best places in Europe to watch our stunning marine life.

“Figures suggest nature-based activities are worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending in Scotland and our natural heritage is certainly an important asset when attracting visitors. The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code helps ensure everyone can enjoy unforgettable encounters with wildlife in a responsible and appropriate way.”

The Code and the Guide to Best Practice are available at and an email address has been set up for queries or comments – .


Contact information

Dominic Shann
Job Title
Media relations lead for marine management
01463 725157
Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. 'S e an dleastanas a th' againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air  no lean sinn air Twitter aig


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