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Watersports with wildlife © Bird Aware Solent

Recreation - Non Motorised Water Sports

Non-motorised watercraft is a generic term which includes both small sailing boats (without a motor) and also paddlesports. Small sailing boats include dinghies, day boats or other small keelboats which are usually taken out of water at end of use. Paddlesports is a term for a range of watersports which involve the use of a paddle for propulsion. This includes sea kayaking, surf kayaking, sit-on-top kayaking, Canadian canoeing and stand up paddle boarding (SUP).

Most small sail boat activity occurs in relatively sheltered areas. Vessels are launched from slipways or sheltered beaches using a trailer or trollies. Activity is centred around sailing clubs, activity centres, harbours and marinas. Paddlesports are generally undertaken close inshore (typically within 1-2 km of the coast). Watercraft that are used for paddling activities have a shallow draught. This allows access to shallow areas of the coast (which are often inaccessible to larger vessels or humans on foot). The focuses of these activities is generally centred around beaches and exploring interesting coastal features such as rock formations (sea caves, arches, cliffs etc), inlets, estuaries and wildlife. These craft are also increasingly used as a platform for recreational fishing..


The main impacts arising from this activity category are considered to be:

Source: Marine recreation evidence briefing: Non-motorised watercraft including paddlesports (EIN028).

Bird Aware Solent's Watersports with Wildlife 

Bird Aware Solent's watersports with wildlife map and guides help paddle and wind sports enthusiasts coexist with nature. The interactive map is designed to help people reduce any disturbance to protected birds and habitats. It pinpoints wildlife friendly exit and entry points as well as where to find amenities like cars parks and toilets. They have also provided a short description of each site and a few suggested wildlife friendly paddle routes. For further information about staying wildlife aware when you’re out on the water, take a look at their guidance for wildlife aware paddle sports and wildlife aware wind sports.


The WiSe Scheme is the UK National training scheme for minimising disturbance to marine wildlife. Its adventure course has been developed to meet the needs of professional 'adventure' practitioners whose activities take place in the coastal/inter-tidal zone, such as sea kayaking, coasteering, stand up paddle boarding, wild swimming, etc. Accredited Adventure WiSe course attendees commit to abide by not only national and local laws on wildlife conservation and disturbance avoidance, but also the WiSe Codes of Conduct, in addition to any local wildlife-watching codes.

Operation Seabird

A rise in marine life disturbances being reported and the predicted rise in numbers of visitors to our coastlines due to the stay local and staycation messages for Summer 2021,  has led to the creation of the Operation Seabird (#opseabird) campaign. Operation Seabird hopes to tackle disturbance to marine life by providing education and guidance to prevent wildlife disturbances then prosecute with the support of the local police forces and the MMO where necessary. 

Paddlesport Guidelines to Avoid Bird Disturbance in Solent Marine Sites

Guidelines for paddlesports were produced by the Solent Forum’s Natural Environment Group’s working group on recreation; the Recreation Focus Group (RFG). The RFG was established to look at the issue of disturbance to birds from paddlesports; an action identified by the Solent’s Relevant Authorities in the Solent European Marine Sites (SEMS) annual survey. They also help to meet actions on recreation identified in Natural England’s Solent Site Improvement Plan (SIP).

These Guidelines are designed to give generic consistent advice for Paddlesports users across all SEMS sites; they have been circulated to all SEMS Relevant Authorities (RAs). It is hoped that these Authorities will take this guidance and transpose it into their existing publications, digital media, maps and signage. It will help them to fulfill their requirements for managing activities under the EU Habitats Directive.

Marker Buoys at Hayling Island

Marker buoys which encourage water sports enthusiasts to watch out for endangered coastal birds have been installed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy at Sandy Point on Hayling island. It is hoped the buoys, which have been put in place near the Sailing Club, will remind paddle boarders, kayakers and other leisure water users to steer clear of the beach at high tide when it is a vital spot for birds to rest. Large numbers of wading birds use the beach as a resting site in winter, including oystercatcher and dunlin which are on the UK red list for conservation. The birds feed in the food-filled mud but as the tide rises, they need somewhere to stay dry and conserve their energy.

British Canoe Union Paddler's Code

Following the huge growth in paddlesports and with millions of people taking to the water every year, British Canoeing has produced the Paddlers’ Code to share guidance on how to enjoy our beautiful waterways responsibly. The Code has been developed with Natural England and reflects their work with the Countryside Code.

SUP life and Bird life

The British Stand up Paddleboard Association (BSUPA) have teamed up with the RSPB to promote a code of conduct to enjoy bird life found in our water areas without adversely impacting breading areas or negatively affecting the bird life in other ways.

Resources and Best Practice Material