Promoting responsible encounters with marine wildlife and their natural habitats.
Wildlife viewing is a popular recreation activity, but it is important to know how to interact with ocean wildlife so that you can make the right decisions. Irresponsible human behavior can disturb animals, destroy important habitats, and even result in injury to animals and people.
NOAA Fisheries and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries developed the Ocean Etiquette program to promote ocean stewardship and minimize impacts to marine life and habitats. Below is a set of general marine wildlife viewing guidelines.
Marine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines
Learn before you go. Read about the wildlife, viewing sites, and local regulations to get the most from your wildlife viewing experience.
Keep your distance. Use binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras with zoom lenses to get a closer look.
Hands off. Never touch, handle, or ride marine wildlife. Touching wildlife, or attempting to do so, can injure the animal, put you at risk, and may also be illegal for certain species.
Do not feed or attract wildlife. Feeding or attempting to attract wildlife with food, decoys, sound, or light disrupts normal feeding cycles, may cause sickness or death from unnatural or contaminated food items, and habituates animals to people.
Never chase or harass wildlife. Never completely surround the animal, trap an animal between a vessel and shore, block its escape route, or come between mother and young.
Stay away from wildlife that appears abandoned or sick. Some marine animals, such as seals, leave the water or are exposed at low tide as part of their natural life cycle—there may be nothing wrong with them. If you think an animal is in trouble, contact local authorities for advice or report it to the NOAA Fisheries stranding network.
More marine wildlife viewing guidelines, specifically when viewing wildlife in national marine sanctuaries, are available online.