WiseOceans aims to provide you with advice relating to different aspects of the marine environment


Get on Board & Go Green

This informative video tells you how to have fun boating in an environmentally responsible way. The small changes everyone can make in their daily lives go a long way toward maintaining our oceans for future generations of boaters to enjoy.

Basking Shark Code of Conduct –

Propellor damage © Jane Young/Manx Basking Shark Watch

Propellor damage © Jane Young/Manx Basking Shark Watch

Basking Sharks are relatively docile creatures – often tolerant to approaches by boats, divers and kayakers. This does not, however, give reason for these animals to be exploited as they have been on occasion.  Make it your responsibility to get out of the sharks’ way – as it will not get out of yours.  One of the critical issues facing Basking Sharks is disturbance and harassment by water users. In the excitement of observing these magnificent creatures there are often reports of sharks being struck by boats or jet-ski’s, as well as being disturbed by swimmers and other water users. The Shark Trust, with advice from Basking Shark expert Colin Speedie, has developed a Basking Shark Code of Conduct for water users.  The Code of Conduct aims to ensure a safe, positive interaction between human and shark – safe for both sharks and humans!  Whilst Basking Sharks are not normally referred to as dangerous, their sheer size and potential power makes them creatures to be treated with respect and caution.  Please bear in mind that, not only are Basking Sharks listed as Endangered, they are also legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Click on the images below to download the Shark Trust Codes of Conduct

basking shark1
basking shark 2
busking shark kayakers

Top Tips for Underwater Photographers

advice photographers1. PHOTOGRAPH WITH CARE: Dive carefully as many aquatic creatures are fragile regardless of size. Improper techniques while taking or editing photos underwater can damage sensitive aquatic life and harm fragile organisms with the bump of a camera or tank, swipe of a fin or even the touch of a hand.
2. DIVE NEUTRAL: Camera systems may add weight or be buoyant. Make sure to secure photo and dive equipment and be properly weighted to avoid contact with reefs or other vital habitat. Practice buoyancy control and photography skills in a pool before swimming near sensitive and fragile environments.
3. RESIST TEMPTATION: Avoid touching, handling, feeding, chasing or riding aquatic life. Avoid altering an organism’s location to get the perfect shot. Many aquatic creatures are shy and easily stressed. These actions may interrupt feeding, disturb mating or provoke aggression in a normally nonaggressive species.
4. EASY DOES IT: While diving, move slowly and deliberately through the water. Be patient and still while photographing – allow organisms to show their natural behavior for a more significant and meaningful shot.
5. SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS: Make sure the difficulty of the dive and the environmental conditions are appropriate for your current skills and comfort level. Avoid stabilizing underwater by grabbing onto the reef for a better photo. Enroll in PADI’s Underwater Photographer, Digital Underwater Photography and Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty courses to become a more skilled and successful photographer.
6. BE INFORMED: Be aware of local regulations and protocols regarding behaviour around marine mammals and other species before entering the water. These regulations protect creatures and aim to assure their preservation for future generations.
7. BE AN AWARE DIVER: Consider enrolling in an AWARE course – Coral Reef Conservation, Project AWARE Specialty or Underwater Naturalist course to learn sustainable dive techniques and increase knowledge about the environment you’re photographing.
8. TAKE ONLY PICTURES, LEAVE ONLY BUBBLES: Avoid souvenir collection. Nearly everything found in the aquatic realm is alive or will be used by a living creature. Removing specimens such as corals and shells can disturb the delicate balance and quickly deplete dive sites of both their resources and their beauty.
9. SHARE YOUR IMAGES: Use images for conservation by reporting environmental disturbances or destruction using your photographs as evidence. Assist scientific research and improve resource management by contributing your photos to The Whale Shark Project and other monitoring programs. You may also submit your photos to Project AWARE. Your images have the power to change perspectives and influence conservation.
10. CONSERVE THE ADVENTURE: Join Project AWARE Foundation, the dive industry’s leading non-profit environmental organization. Your support helps conserve underwater environments through education, advocacy and action.

project aware
project aware2
project aware

What are the responsible dive and snorkel practices when swimming with Manta Rays?

manta ray1Mantas are such fascinating creatures that most divers and snorkelers feel naturally compelled to approach them.  In some instances the mantas themselves will come up to divers. Once they become familiar with you, they may circle close for long periods (hour long encounters are not uncommon). Other mantas will avoid close contact and may leave the area quickly if bothered. Although you may be tempted to interact with the mantas, there are some precautions that should be taken to protect them from harm and harassment.
By following these simple rules developed and approved by the Manta Science Advisory Board, time spent in the water with mantas will be enjoyable for you and others. It is best to let the mantas set the rules for encounters. If harassed they will leave and being touched can cause injury and stress.

1. DO NOT CHASE MANTAS: Manta rays are much faster than you, and chasing them will drive them away. Once a manta decides you are not a threat, it will come closer or allow you to approach slowly.
2. ENTER THE WATER CAREFULLY: Enter the water carefully as not to scare them away. If possible slip into the water over the side of the boat.
3. REMAIN NEAR THE BOTTOM: Divers should remain near the bottom and snorkelers near the surface. This allows the mantas plenty of room to manoeuvre in the water column without disturbance.
4. DO NOT CROWD OR SWIM OVER CLEANING STATIONS: Cleaning stations are important locations for manta rays to get parasites removed from their bodies. Getting too close to a cleaning station will interfere with the mantas cleaning, and may cause the manta not to come back to the cleaning station in the future.
5. AVOID ATTRACTING FEEDING MANTAS: Position your lights away from you at night-time feeding areas. Mantas feed on plankton, which is attracted to lights at night. Hold your light over your head, or anchor it on the bottom away from you to avoid getting in the way of a feeding manta.
6. DO NOT TOUCH MANTAS: Refrain from touching mantas even though they might present their bellies for a rub. The oils in your hand will remove the natural protective layer that guards their skin from disease. Gloves will also remove their protective layer of slime.
7. AVOID CLOSE-UP BUBBLES OR FLASH: bubbles or flash photography may disturb Manta rays. Avoid exhaling or firing a strobe directly into the face of an approaching manta. Some mantas may actually enjoy the bubbles on their undersides but other may not. Manta rays at cleaning stations may be disturbed by strobes. Observe before you act.
8. RESPECT THEIR ACTIVITIES: Do not disturb them if they are engaged in feeding, cleaning or mating.
9. MAKE EYE CONTACT: Attempt direct eye contact with the mantas. They generally welcome a friendly connection.
10. DO NOT RIDE MANTAS: Mantas have been known to present themselves for riding, but this is a rare occurrence. Riding a manta ray will cause serious stress to the animal.
11. Know local regulations and protocols regarding your behaviour around mantas before entering the water. These are designed to ensure the animal’s well being.
12. When taking photos maintain a distance between you and the manta so you don’t interfere with its natural behaviour and environment. Passive observation will allow you to take photos or videos in a way that won’t frighten or otherwise disturb the manta. Do not use flash photography or videography it greatly stresses the manta and will cause it to move away.
13. Watch out for mantas when boating – if a boat strikes a manta this may cause the manta serious injury or death.  Keep a distance.  Mantas will often feed at the surface.
14. Be an AWARE diver – enroll in a Peak Performance Buoyancy, Coral Reef Conservation or Project AWARE Specialty Course to improve your diving skills and increase your knowledge.

Learn more about Manta Rays

Seals on the rocks

Seals on the rocks

Guidelines for watching SEALS, SEA LIONS AND BIRDS ON LAND

  1. BE CAUTIOUS AND QUIET when around haul-outs and bird colonies, especially during breeding, nesting and pupping seasons.
  2. REDUCE SPEED, minimize wake, wash and noise, and then slowly pass without stopping.
  3. AVOID approaching closer than 100 metres/yards to any marine mammals or birds.
  4. PAY ATTENTION and move away, slowly and cautiously, at the first sign of disturbance or agitation.
  5. DO NOT disturb, move, feed or touch any marine wildlife, including seal pups. If you are concerned about a potentially sick or stranded animal, contact your local stranding network where available.

Disturbance is when we interfere with an animal’s ability to hunt, feed, communicate, socialise, rest, breed, or care for its young. These are critical processes, necessary for healthy marine wildlife populations.

Baby blacktip reef shark

Baby blacktip reef shark

Tips to avoid shark incidents

by James Honeyborne – (Producer, BBC Natural History Unit)

Shark attacks are very very rare – on average less than 70 attacks happen globally a year, of which less than 7 are fatal.  However here are some truths about shark behaviour gleaned from 20 years making wildlife films, that may help put the odds on your side:

  • Sharks are generally cautious predators. Swim with a buddy – don’t swim alone as they are less likely to approach a group.
  • Sharks are visual hunters – don’t swim when their vision is compromised and mistakes can be made: avoid dawn and dusk, or swimming in murky water.
  • Sharks are attracted to bright objects: don’t wear shiny jewellery, reflective watch-faces or high contrast clothing that might be mistaken for their flashy prey.
  • Sharks sense panic. Swim efficiently and minimise splashing and erratic movements. If a shark turns up, keep calm and confident and leave the water. Keeping eye-contact with some sharks will make them reluctant to approach. Never turn your back on the shark.
  • Sharks communicate visually. You can often tell a shark’s disposition by its body language. An aggressive shark accentuates its body posture. A relaxed shark looks languid. Remember they are all opportunistic however and can change their mood very quickly.
  • Sharks can be aggressive. Never antagonise a shark or allow it to feel threatened. Equally, don’t let it dominate you. If you’re in its world, give it the respect it deserves. If a shark looks grumpy, get out of the water
  • Sharks prefer some places to others. More sharks hang-out near steep drop-offs, for example. Avoiding areas known for sharks to congregate seems wise, unless of course you’re a wildlife film-maker seeking out an encounter.


Return to SeaSense or read our Whales & Dolphins Advice page