Recreation : Guidelines

Guidelines for recreational activities in European marine sites

This section builds on the information in previous sections to provide, in the form of activity guides of recreational activities that take place in and around European marine sites. The individual activity guides provide the following information for each activity:

  • participation rates

  • key activity characteristics

  • methods of disseminating information to users

  • locations where the activity is likely to take place

  • environmental effects

  • impacts on features (high, medium, low)

  • availability of codes of practice

  • address of governing body

The table of environmental effects for each activity is based both on the information contained within preceding chapters and also on a consideration of the characteristics of the activity and the typical location in which it occurs. Although there is limited scientific information detailing the specific cause and effect relationships of changes in marine features over time, the summary tables provide a starting point for identifying which activities are likely to have an impact upon marine features. It should be stressed that the tables are not designed to be definitive guides to the impact of activities at specific sites - this can only be determined by site assessment. It is also vital to consider recreational activities in the context of natural factors and other human influences not connected with recreation.

The reader should take the following key issues into account in relation to the information contained within this section.

The intensity of both land and water-based recreation in European marine sites is determined largely by the accessibility of the area to those people who wish to take part in the activity.

Recreational activities can have a wide range of impacts on the marine environment. These range from physical effects such as trampling to biological effects such as the suspension of hydrocarbons in the water column. However, the impacts of an activity upon a feature depends upon the ecological requirements of that feature (its sensitivity) and the likelihood of the activity occurring at a damaging level.

The potential for an activity to have an impact on a marine feature does not imply that it will have an impact on that feature or that an observed impact at one site will occur at all sites.

Only investigation on a site specific basis, preferably over time, can determine the actual link between recreational activities and observed changes in marine features.

Where the impacts of an activity are uncertain, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1998) suggests that the precautionary principle should be applied. This implies that such uncertainty should not be used as a justification for postponing measures to protect the environment. However, there should be strong circumstantial evidence of cause and effect before implementing specific controls on activities.



Dinghy sailing

Personal water craft

Water skiing

Sub aqua and snorkelling

Sea fishing and shoreline angling

Sea kayaking and canoeing

Infrastructure for water-based recreation

Walking, hiking and dog walking

Horse riding

Bird watching


Quad biking

Wildlife watching, including seal and dolphin watching

Beach recreation