Industry and Nature in Harmony

Recreational Disturbance - What is it and how to report it?

Recreational Disturbance - What is it and how to report it?

The Humber Estuary is a valued open space used by many people for recreational activities. It is also highly valued for wildlife, and is often described as ‘Premier League’ in terms of its designations which include Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, and a European Marine Site.

Recreational disturbance refers to someone taking part in a recreational activity that causes:

  • Change in behaviour of wildlife (e.g. take flight, alarm calls, cessation of feeding, leave nest etc.)
  • Damage to habitat (e.g. trampling of saltmarsh/sand dunes/seagrass, flytipping etc.)
  • In serious cases, physical harm or death of wildlife

June 2020 saw the end of the first national Covid lockdown, and with this came a huge influx of both tourists and residents to the Humber Estuary. Although the vast majority enjoyed their visit with no noticeable impact on the protected species and habitats, the Humber Management Scheme received over 40 reports of recreational disturbance between June and December 2020.

These included:

  • Illegal use of motorbikes and quadbikes through nature reserves and on floodbanks
  • Jet skies riding at speed through rafts of wildfowl
  • Drones flying low and fast over protected sites where Schedule 1 species reside
  • Very low paramotor flights over wildfowl hotspots
  • Dogs off lead causing birds to take flight and leave the area
  • Illegal poaching
  • Numerous flytipping events
  • Walkers disturbing Seals that have hauled themselves onto the beach to rest.

Although a number of these incidents have been dealt with by the Humber Management Scheme, our partners and Humberside Police, the rise of ‘Staycations’ means that we are likely to see a huge increase in recreational disturbance in 2021.

Due to the sheer scale of the Humber Estuary European Marine Site, we rely on both members of the public and our partners to make us aware of these issues. To make reporting easier, we have embedded a form on our website that can be accessed from your computer, or while out on the estuary on your mobile device. The form asks 12 simple questions, takes less than 5 minutes and can be filled in anonymously if so wished.

The link to the form can be found here on our observation page:

If you have any questions, please email

21 February 2021 by Jackson Sage

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