Operation Seabird

Operation Seabird is a partnership initiative between North Yorkshire Police, Humberside Police, the RSPCA, the Marine Management Organisation and the YMNP, established to reduce the impacts of recreational activities on sensitive marine wildlife.

Originally developed around the Flamborough Head European Marine Site (EMS), it has now been picked up by other police forces and partnerships nationwide. The initiative aims to engage and educate the public about the sensitivities of the coastline, and how simple changes in their behaviour could reduce pressure on our unique wildlife.

Through Operation Seabird, we encourage everyone enjoying time on the water to:

  • Keep your distance: Keep a safe distance (at least 100m) from the cliffs, rafting seabirds and marine mammals, allowing space for animals to move away from you.
  • No-wake speed: Motorised vessels and personal watercraft should travel at a no-wake speed within 300m of the cliffs or shore.
  • Avoid enclosed spaces: All motorised and non-motorised vessels should avoid entering caves and travelling through archways where breeding seabirds or resting seals are present.
  • Be aware: If an animal’s behaviour changes in response to your presence, move away quickly and quietly.

Reporting and Monitoring

Recreational activities and wildlife disturbance has been consistently monitored around the Flamborough Head EMS since 2013, thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers from our partner organisations.

Operation Seabird builds on this knowledge and helps us to understand how recreational activities impact wildlife across the Yorkshire coast. The information we collect informs future management of our unique marine environment and can be used by the Police and other enforcement bodies to investigate serious disturbance incidents.

We classify disturbance as any human activity which changes the natural behaviour of a wild animal. 

For example, a group of seabirds flying away from their nests in response to a loud noise, or a dolphin prevented from swimming in a certain direction due to the presence of a boat.

We rely on a network of volunteers and on members of the public to share disturbance incidents. To report wildlife disturbance on the Yorkshire coast, call 101 (quoting Operation Seabird) and complete the form below.


Flamborough Head EMS Recreational Activity Recording Form

Recording information about activities around Flamborough and Filey can help us to understand how these activities might affect the internationally-important breeding seabird colony. It is useful to record all activities, whether disturbance is caused or not, to create an accurate baseline of information. Please provide as much information as possible on this form.
Binoculars / Telescope Used?*

Activities Observed:

Jet Ski:
Motorised Boat:
Low Flying Aircraft:
Canoes and Kayaks:
Dog Walker:
Privacy and Cookies:*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Guidance Notes:

  • Disturbance can be classed as any activity which interrupts the natural behaviour of an animal.
  • Please record how close the activity was to the cliff or to rafting birds, whichever is more relevant.
  • For the purposes of this research:
  • High disturbance = Extreme change in behaviour. Flight of more than 50m or agitated behaviour e.g. flying around the cliffs for more than 2 minutes
  • Moderate disturbance = Noticeable change in behaviour. Flight of less than 50m but returned to original behaviour within 2 minutes.
  • Slight disturbance = Small change in behaviour. Alert and vocalising but little change in movement.
  • None = No change in behaviour
  • Disturbance can apply to any species – seabirds, porpoise, seals, wading birds etc. Please record these as necessary.
  • Please indicate where any disturbance took place.
  • Please note down any extra information you think is necessary – including any vehicle registration numbers, whether you have any pictures / video that may help this research and if you observed any intentional damage to the environment.

Search #OpSeabird on Twitter to see our latest activities.

View our other active projects and activities

The YMNP works with an ever-growing network of partners to identify key knowledge gaps, develop new projects, support existing activities, and enable innovative progress.

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Images kindly provided by Jamie Johnson, Martin Jones-Gill and Jo Symon