Marine species & wildlife: protection

Find out about the different marine species and how they are protected UK wildlife legislation.



During the current health emergency, the Marine Management Organisation is continuing to provide vital services and support to our customers and stakeholders. Marine wildlife licence applications continue to be actioned, with officers available to help with queries related to wildlife licensing or to respond to incidents. Please contact us by email on or call 0300 123 1032.

Further information on other assistance available to businesses and individuals at this time can be found on our guidance for the marine development sector.

Many marine species are protected by UK wildlife legislation from intentional or deliberate disturbance, taking, injury and killing, and in some cases possession or sale. These marine species are protected regardless of whether they are inside or outside marine protected areas.

The offences that apply will depend on the species, activity and location. The tables provide a summary of what marine species are protected and by what legislation. Please refer to the legislation directly for details of offences and defences, or contact the Marine Conservation Team at for further advice.

Some of the species are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and are labelled in the guidance.

Published 11 June 2014
Last updated 13 June 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updates to Seals guidance page.

  2. Sharks, skates, and fish update

  3. Shark and Seahorse pages updated

  4. Updated

  5. Small updates

  6. Shark update

  7. Page content on wild species updated. New page created for Seahorses

  8. Changes to Seals page in line with EU exit

  9. CTA added

  10. Prohibited or unauthorised method to capture or kill HTML updated

  11. Telephone number changed

  12. Information on protecting Tope, shark finning, protective measures and pair trawling for bass added

  13. First published.