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Marine wildlife

Legislation exists to protect marine species and habitats from offences related to intentional taking, injuring or killing, or disturbing certain listed species, and intentional damage to habitats that support those species. These offences can potentially incur heavy financial penalties, and in severe cases, custodial sentences.

Different legislation covers different geographical areas and different species. We have created a summary of the offences for each species.

We enforce legislation for the protection of species and habitats in the marine environment from 0 to 200 nautical miles in English waters and 12 to 200 nautical miles in Welsh waters.

European protected species, including dolphins and porpoises, are often disturbed by some activities. These include inappropriate boat behaviour, proximity of people, piling noise from construction or seismic and other geophysical surveys. Certain considerations may be required regarding wildlife licensing or mitigation if an activity is likely to disturb them.

A wildlife licence is required by anyone who wishes to carry out an activity in the English marine environment or the Welsh offshore environment that is prohibited under nature conservation legislation, where the activity cannot be sufficiently mitigated against.

Contact information

Marine Conservation and Enforcement Team
Marine Management Organisation
Lancaster House
Hampshire Court
Newcastle upon Tyne

Tel: 0191 376 2677
Fax: 0191 376 2681
Email: conservation@